Feast of the Day – Ash Wednesday
“…As we live through this Ash Wednesday, may the crosses of ashes that mark our foreheads be a reminder to us and to those we meet that we belong to your Son. May our worship and prayer and penitence this day be sustained throughout these 40 days of Lent. Bring us refreshed and renewed to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.” – A Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season of preparation and renewal for the Easter Triduum. The season of Lent has an ancient and interesting history. From the earliest centuries there were various periods of preparation for Easter. The tradition of prayer, fasting, and alms giving has evolved over time. Lent used to begin on Sunday like the other liturgical seasons. However, Pope St. Gregory the Great moved it to Wednesday to acurately mark 40 days – not counting Sundays – prior to Easter.
Ashes have a long history and deep significance in the Bible. Sack cloth and ashes are ancient symbol of mourning and repentance. Fasting and almsgiving are also prominent in the Old and New Testaments. Fasting focuses our attention on our need for God and alms giving reminds us that our service to the poor and the marginalized is service to God.
With the renewed focus on the baptism of adult catechumens at the Easter Vigil, Lent has become, once again, a time in which the community recalls, relives, and renews its life in the Paschal Mystery – the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.