Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
— Genesis 3:19
For the Catholic Community, today, Ash Wednesday, marks the first day of the Lenten season. The season is for repentance, meditation, and abstinence which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are all flawed and journeying to the grave. All year round, we dodge the reality of mortality. Life is our path, Death is our destiny. As the 14th Century writer Thomas a’Kempis counsels: “Presume not to promise yourself the next morning, and in the morning, consider you may not live till nightfall. Many die when they least think of it. A man is here today, and tomorrow he is gone. And when he is taken out of sight, he is also quickly out of mind.”
Some Facts about Ash Wednesday:
1. Its official name is “Day of Ashes,” so called because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of a cross.
2. Since it is exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday, it will always fall on a Wednesday—there cannot be an “Ash Thursday” or “Ash Monday.”
3. The Bible never mentions Ash Wednesday—for that matter, it never mentions Lent.
4. The Eastern Orthodox Church does not observe Ash Wednesday; instead, they start Lent on “Clean Monday.”
5. The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense.
6. In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance—a day of contemplating one’s transgressions.
7. In the Republic of Ireland, Ash Wednesday is National No Smoking Day. The date was chosen because quitting smoking ties in with giving up luxury for Lent.
So LENT is about sacrifice, giving up luxury, spiritual discipline, self-denial, abstinence, fasting, repentance, reflection…and this goes for forty days. That’s technically a month and a half(?).
I do remember not eating meat during lent when I was younger. Even the food at the cafeteria at my school was limited to tuna sandwiches and orange juice. But as I grew up, I kind of just stopped practicing “lent“. The last time I remembered fasting was fourteen years ago and the last time I remembered going to confession was ten years ago (before I got married).
I don’t have perfect attendance in Church but I do make it a point to go every Sunday if I can. My faith in God is strong and firm and we often talk.
As I was coming into the office this morning, I noticed a couple of co-employees with ashes on their foreheads and I said to myself maybe I should start practicing Lent. It might be good for me and my spiritual relationship with myself and my God. After all, I’ve been so blessed and the blessings just keep coming.
What am I willing to give up this Lenten season? Okay, I do realize forty days is quite long so I’m gonna list down what is achievable.
1. Online shopping. This will be forty days worth of savings.
2. Alcohol. Forty days of sobriety (FYI: I don’t drink everyday and no, I don’t have a drinking problem).
3. Meat, chicken and rice. Goodbye US Roast Beef Carving on Valentines day. On the brighter side, this will be good for my diet. I’ve been trying to lose weight since forever.
4. Junk food. Will just have to find another way to deal with stress.
5. PROCRASTINATION. I don’t think I need to explain why. I NEED to give this up not only during Lent.
I also think that Lent is not just for sacrifice but also for giving. I’ve given up grudges, animosity and revenge earlier this year so I’ve decided that this Lent would be a good time to start paying it forward, doing even just one good deed or act of kindness everyday.
Ashes are traced in the form of a cross on foreheads today. “What is the meaning of our strange behavior?” asks Anglican archbishop of Canterbur in his 2011 book: Writing in the Dust. “Three things, I believe. With these Lenten ashes, we confess. We promise. We hope — in a journey towards renewal.”
Crossing my fingers…I can do this…I can do this…I CAN DO THIS!
To God be the glory.
Wow, I actually researched about Lent and Fasting. I will do my penance this Lent. Good luck to me for forty days.