by J. Goncz
Ash Wednesday- Wednesday Feb 14th
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
This year the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, coincides with Valentine’s Day. Last time this happened was 1945. At a deeper level both days have a similar message of love: Lent, being a time of really looking at our lives and seeing where we can be more united with God who loves us; and Valentine’s Day when we turn in sharing love with each other. Lent is a time for more prayer, leading a simpler life with less stuff, being less self-centered and more generous in our words, thoughts and deeds, and Valentine’s day invites us to direct those deeds to others.
When the Ashes are placed on our forehead in the Sign of the Cross, we are choosing to put aside all of our ego, our wants, our possessions, our demands, and open ourselves up to God’s love.
May these 40 days of Lent bring us closer to our loving and merciful God, and help us to enter into a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the day when all Christians have their foreheads signed with ashes in the form of a Cross, or ashes are placed on top of their heads. Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence. Under current canon law in the Western Rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are 18 to 60 years old are required to limit food to a single meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children and those with medical conditions and those who perform physical work are excused from the requirements of fasting. A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics aged 14 or older are required to abstain from eating meat. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Starting with Ash Wednesday, Lent continues over the next 40 days (excluding Sundays), ending on Holy Thursday. The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word for spring, the season when Lent occurs each year. This is something unique to the English language. In almost all other languages, its name is derived from the Latin term Quadragesima, meaning “40 days.” The 40-day period has its traditions in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, it refers to the period Jesus spent in the desert before his final days of ministry and Passion. Therefore, it is fitting for Christians to imitate their Lord with a period of prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration of the Sacred Triduum – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil of Resurrection) and Easter Sunday.
“ ‘For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning;’ [Heb 4:15]. By the solemn 40 days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540) – The Catechism of the Catholic Church