In Western churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.
Many churches, especially Roman Catholic, Anglican,
and Lutheran, hold special services on this day.
This service often includes the blessing of ashes
on the foreheads of worshipers, and words based on Genesis 3:19,
"for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
The ceremony reminds participants that they should
begin their Lenten penance in a humble spirit.
During Lent, we are preparing our souls and our hearts
for the great feast of the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord
from the Dead.
It has long been a custom of the Church for the faithful
to "give up something" for Lent.
Candy, entertainments, etc. usually top the list,
along with the customary observance of the laws of fasting
--eating smaller/fewer meals--
and of abstinence --eating no meat at prescribed times--
but these remain the outward observance
of the internal denial which must be undertaken.
The soul must consider the giving up of the old sinful way
and putting on a new self in Christ.
The Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday,
is the first day of the Lenten fast.
The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears
in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies
of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates
from at least the eighth century.
On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom
are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass,
and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead -- or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure --of each the sign of the cross, saying the words:
"Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."
The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning
the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year.
In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient.
The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives,
either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest,
usually the highest in dignity of those present.
In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed
the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.
There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation
of the practice observed in the case of public penitents.
But this devotional usage, the reception of a sacramental
which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed.
It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful
in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739),
but nearly a hundred years earlier than this
the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric assumes that it applies
to all classes of men. "We read", he says, "in the books
both in the Old Law and in the New
that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves
with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth.
Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent
that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify
that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast."
And then he enforces this recommendation by the terrible example
of a man who refused to go to church for the ashes
on Ash Wednesday and who a few days after was accidentally killed
in a boar hunt (Ælfric, Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, I, 262-266).
It is possible that the notion of penance
which was suggested by the rite of Ash Wednesday
was reinforced by the figurative exclusion
from the sacred mysteries symbolized by the hanging
of the Lenten veil before the sanctuary.
Text: the Catholic Encyclopedia,
copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc.
The Practices of Catholics during the Holy Season of Lent
In her loving care of the flock,
the Church has developed pious practices
by which the faithful may make themselves more open
to receiving graces during this time of penance,
although one is not limited to these shown:
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Liturgical Season of Lent. In ancient times, the period for preparation for Easter differed in length in various countries. Later it was so arranged that forty days of fasting would precede the great Feast as a reminder of Our Lord's fast in the desert. In the Old Law, ashes signified grief or repentance. In the Early Church, penitents did penance "in sackcloth and ashes." Man is anointed with ashes to remember his beginning and end.
"Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" Gen 3:19
ASH WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 13, 2013
Discover the Value of the Denial of the Appetites
both Physical and Spiritual
“And He was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan; and He was with beasts and the angels ministered to Him ."
Mark 1: 12-13
“And He ate nothing in those days, and when they ended he was hungry." Luke 4:1-13
The Gospels speak of a time of solitude in the desert for Our Lord, immediately following His Baptism by St. John the Baptist. For forty days He remains there, eating nothing, and the angels care for Him. At the end of this time, Satan tempts Him three times, seeking His renouncement of His heavenly Father.Jesus withstands and rebuffs these attacks.
Throughout the gospels, the evangelists tell of the meaning of this mysterious event:
Jesus is the new Adam, He remains faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills the vocation of Israel perfectly, in contrast to those who had once provoked God during their forty years in the desert.
Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates His victory of the Passion.
By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
In the fifth precept of the Church, the faithful are bound to observe the prescribed days of fast and abstinence. Her requirement guarantees to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor.
Fasting and abstaining from meat assures the times of penance and self-denial which prepare us for the great liturgical feasts; it helps us acquire mastery over our instincts, and freedom of heart.
The best Fasting is to Fast from sin. See LENTEN REFLECTIONS by our guest contributor, seminarian Joachim Chukwudi.
The second Commandment of the Church is to observe the days of fasting and abstinence She has appointed. In Her love for us, the Church makes this command in observance of Christ's rule:
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23
We are to deny ourselves by giving up our own will and by going against our dispositions, inclinations and passions. If our evil inclinations are not corrected by self-denial, they will certainly carry us eventually to @#!*% .
We are to take up our cross by submitting daily with patience to the labors and sufferings of this short life and by bearing them willingly for the love of God.
Fasting days are when we are allowed to take only one full meal, the other two combined should not equal the full meal.
Abstinence forbids the eating of flesh meat and soups made from meat on the days appointed by the Church.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.Why are there so many poor children in the world? Because God's people have forgotten to give alms to the poor.
What Jesus said about Giving Alms
The duties of Christians are mentioned in Matthew 6:1-21 giving alms, prayer and fasting. While prayer is acknowledged by most as important,both giving alms and fasting are usually ignored. Giving alms is basically giving to the poor; those who struggle for the basic necessities of life.
We should note that Jesus said 'When you give alms...' not 'If you give alms...' Jesus says that we are to give alms secretly before God and not publicly before men and then we shall be rewarded openly before men by God. In giving alms we are laying treasure for ourselves in heaven. When we die we cannot take our money with us but our deeds will follows us (Apoc. 14:13). So by giving to the poor now, in this life, we are laying up treasure in heaven for eternity.
Luke 12:33 goes further and tells us to sell our possesions and to give to the poor, then we will have treasure in heaven.
Luke 12:34 goes on to add 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'.
Do we value our earthly possesions more than our treasure in the next life?
We can choose to be rich in this life, which only lasts a short time, and to be poor in the next life, which lasts for eternity.
Jesus told the rich young ruler,
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matt 19:21) His problem was that money was his god.
We are warned that we cannot serve two masters, money or God, we will love one and despise the other (Matt 6:24). Give alms wholeheartedly to the poor, during the Holy season of Lent, and at all times throughout the year
Practice these charitable works by which we attend to
the spiritual and bodily needs of our neighbor.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
The Church's love for the poor is part of her constant tradition.
This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes,
of the poverty of Jesus and of His concern for the poor,
whether they be in spiritual or material need.
The spiritual works of mercy are charitable actions and prayers offered by which we come to the spiritual aid of our neighbor.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." ~ Matt 5:7
The Corporal Works of Mercy
The corporal works of mercy are charitable acts
by which we come to aid in the bodily necessities of our neighbor.
"He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none,
and he who has food must do likewise...." ~Luke 11:41
Follow in pious meditation on Christ's walk to Calvary.
As most of us are already familiar with the version by St. Alphonse Ligouri, we have presented a different version here which was originally composed for children.
It's simplicity is inspiring.
Pray this pious meditation on the sorrows Our Lady bore in humility during the Life, Passion and Death of her Divine Son.
Revive in our hearts this devotion from Our Lord Himself
to Sister Mary Martha Chambon which honors the sacred wounds of our Divine Savior
Without the shedding of the Blood of the Lamb of God, we could not be redeemed. Holy Mother Church has a profound love for the Most Precious Blood of her Divine Spouse, since It is the Price of our salvation!
God expects us to let His Mercy flow through us to others.
"Even if a sinner were most hardened, if only once he will recite this chaplet, he will obtain grace from My infinite Mercy.
Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday April 1 -April 7, 2012
Title Photo from AP Photo by Kathy Willens