Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Today we begin our preparation to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus at the Sacred Triduum. The season of Lent recalls the time that Our Lord spent in the desert when he mortified his body through fasting and was tempted by the devil and yet sustained by the angels. In the early Church this season lasted for thirty six days, beginning on what is now the first Sunday of Lent. Later, the four weekdays were added in order to bring the total to forty days in order to better mirror Our Lord’s fast.

Ashes carry great symbolism in the Old Testament where man is created out of dust in the book of Genesis. They had a penitential character among the Israelites who put on sackcloth and ashes when imploring God’s mercy – as in the story of Jonah and the city of Nineveh.

In the early Church the rite of imposing ashes upon the forehead was only for public penitents who had committed grave sins. That the Church now imposes ashes upon all the faithful is a sign that we are all called to practice penance in order to purify the soul and renew our love for God. May we, who came from dust and to dust must return, make full use of this season of penance and purification so that we may be willing to share Christ’s passion and thus be fit to rise to new life with him at his resurrection.

Daniel Mary Jeffries OP

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