Lent is the Season of repentance, prayer and fasting.
The Season of Lent lasts for 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter. It represents the 40 days Jesus spent in prayer and fasting in the desert before beginning His public ministry.
Lent is also a time for us to recommit ourselves to and rediscover the importance of the corporal and spiritual works
St John Chrysostom wrote: “ No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great”.
Corporal works of mercy:
To feed the hungry
To give drink to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To welcome the stranger
To heal the sick
To visit the imprisoned
To bury the dead
Spiritual works of mercy:
To counsel the doubtful
To instruct the ignorant
To admonish sinners
To comfort the afflicted
To forgive offences
To bear patiently those who do us ill
To pray for the living and the dead.
Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. It is a day of fasting and abstinence.
The ashes are made from the burning of the blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year's Palm Sunday Mass and to symbolize the dust from which God made us.
As the priest applies the ashes to a person's forehead, he speaks the words " Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" or " Repent and believe in the Gospel."
The tradition of receiving ashes has its origins in the Old Testament, where sinners performed acts of public penance.
It marks a commitment to Jesus Christ and God and is a time when we want to show God we are sorry for the wrong things we have done in the past. It is also an opportunity for us to begin to make changes in our lives, to reflect the teachings of Jesus and begin our journey towards salvation.
Ash Wednesday, as the first day of Lent is also the day when we can make Lenten Promises: to deny ourselves something, or to regularly do something to help someone.
You have taught us to overcome our sins
By prayer, fasting and works of mercy.
When we are discouraged by our weakness,
When we are despondent and thoughtless,
Help us to know that you are always with us,
Guiding us every day and
Giving us strength through your Love.