The Lenten season is a time of renewing our baptismal promises. It is a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent prepares us for our Lordís resurrection on Easter Sunday. Through his resurrection Jesus conquers death, and we attain the gift of salvation.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.
Why do we use ashes?
In the Old Testament ashes were used as a sign of penance and mourning when they were sprinkled on the head and over the body.
Ashes humble us and remind us of our mortality. When we are told, ďRemember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return,Ē we remember life here on earth is temporary. We are only here for a short time Ė a time to prepare for our eternal life in heaven. Lent is a perfect time to reflect on this. Attending Mass on Ash Wednesday is the perfect way to begin our Lenten journey.
Where do the ashes come from?
Blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes we receive during Ash Wednesday Mass. These ashes are scented when they are exposed to incense, and they are blessed with Holy Water.
When is it okay to wash the ashes off?
There is no set time. You may wash off the ashes immediately after Mass if you so choose. Many people leave their ashes on throughout the rest of the day as a sign of their mortality, as well as a sign that they are a follower of Christ.
What is the significance of 40 days of Lent?
The 40 days of Lent comes from two Biblical accounts. One is the 40 years that the Israelities wandered the wilderness. The second is from our Lordís 40 days in the dessert when he was tempted by Satan.
Why are there actually more than 40 days during Lent?
I would like to quote the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website to answer this:
It might be more accurate to say that there is the "forty day fast within Lent."† Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.
Why give something up for Lent?
Giving up something is a way to share in the sacrifice Jesus made for us and to open our hearts to renewing our baptismal promises. But, you donít necessarily need to give up something. Most often we think of giving up food - sweets, candy, soda and the like. That, of course, is a viable option. You can, however, choose to do something else, or give up your time - perhaps cut back on watching television or limit your online time. Instead do something like attend daily Mass, if your schedule allows, or volunteer with a ministry of your choice. When deciding what to do for Lent, the sky really is the limit. Do something, or give something up, that will unify you with our Lord, Jesus Christ, and renew your baptism commitments. Something that will make a difference in your life, as well as those around you.
Whatever we choose to do we do to unite our sacrifice to our Lordís in much the same way we do when we abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
When exactly do we have to observe Fast and Abstinence and what are the guidelines?
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Click for detailed Guidelines for Fast and Abstinence.
What opportunities are there to strengthen my Lenten journey?
Most parishes offer Stations of the Cross during the Lenten season and many offer other spirituality enriching opportunities like days of reflections or parish missions. Check with your local parish to find out what Lenten opportunities are available.
When does Lent officially end?
Lent ends on Holy Thursday, which is when the Easter Triduum - Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday - begins.
For more information:
Journey Through Lent
Prayer for the Lenten Season
Sacrifice for Lent
Peace in Christ,
© Melissa Knoblett-Aman