Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent

The Season of Lent and Ash Wednesday

Some people think that the Season of Lent is merely a time to refrain from eating candy or giving up something for a period of time. The Season of Lent does include activities of sacrifice, but its meaning is much more significant than this. Lent originally began in the early Church because of the catechumens who were preparing intensely to receive the Easter sacraments. It began as a period of time meant to lead us to conversion. Thus, the sacrifices we make during Lent should lead us to a profound change of heart.

The Church teaches that Lent has a twofold character: to prepare BOTH catechumens and faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. It is a time when we “climb the Holy Mountain of Easter.” During Lent in our parish we will witness the catechumens celebrating several rituals at the 10:00AM Mass as they prepare for the Easter Vigil. We are called to unite their spiritual journey of conversion with our own.

“Fasting” is one of the spiritual activities that we are called to do by the Church. But we do not only just “fast” from food. We are also called to “fast” in our worship. The Church teaches that “In Lent the altar should not be decorated with flowers, and musical instruments may be played only to give necessary support to the singing. This is in order that the penitential character of the season be preserved. Likewise from the beginning of Lent until the paschal Vigil, “Alleluia” is to be omitted in all celebrations, even on solemnities and feasts.”

On the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent we are called to receive the ashes as a sign of penance. The ashes remind us of our human condition as sinners, but also that on this day we begin a special journey of conversion. The blessing and imposition of ashes may take place in Mass or outside Mass but always within a Liturgy of the Word. It is a day of both abstinence and fasting.

by Sr. Linda Gaupin, CDP, Ph.D.

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