ASHES will be marked on the foreheads of the faithful who attend Mass today as Catholics all over the world start the 40-day season of Lent with Ash Wednesday.
Fr. Zenon Guanzon, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma’s private secretary, said ashes remind people about their origin and destiny.
“We are reminded that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. We are but pilgrims in this world. Our real destiny and true home is heaven,” he told Cebu Daily News.
Ashes also symbolize the call for repentance and the need to reunite oneself with the Lord.
The priest or a lay minister will impose ashes in the form of the cross on the forehead of each churchgoer, saying, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” or, “Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
The ashes used today are the ashes of burnt palms blessed during last year’s Palm Sunday.
The ashes are sprinkled with holy water or oil and smoked with incense.
Archbishop Palma will preside over a private Mass at the chapel inside his residence today.
Whether or not one has ashes on his or her forehead, Guanzon said all Catholics are required to fast and abstain.
“It does not mean that when you have no ashes on your forehead that you can eat meat or avoid fasting,” he clarified.
Catholics aged 18 to 60 are obliged to fast or to eat less on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday which is April 14 this year.
Fasting, however, has been relaxed for ailing people, Guanzon said.
Fasting refers to eating only one complete meal and two smaller ones.
“Except for the one complete meal, the two others should be cute meals. Also, one must forego in-between meals or snacks,” he said.
Also on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, Catholics at least 14 years old are obliged to abstain from eating meat.
“Fasting and abstinence are about saying no to food. They exercise our will power to say no especially to sin. More than the stomach, these two practices train our intellect and will so that we may be able to control them,” Guanzon explained.
And the best way to commemorate the Lenten season, he said, is to “eat less, pray more, and love without limits.”
During the 40-day period of Lent, Catholics commemorate the central mystery of our faith: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It culminates on Holy Week, which starts this year on April 9 (Palm Sunday).
Of the 46 days until Easter, six are Sundays.