ASH WEDNESDAY / VALENTINE’S DAY
Catholics all over the world today start the season of Lent with the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the faithful who attend Mass.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will preside over a private Mass at the chapel of his residence to mark the start of the Catholic Church’s most somber and solemn season.
Ashes, he said, remind people of the penitential spirit of Lent.
“We are reminded that we are dust and unto dust we shall return, and that we must repent from our sins and believe in the Gospel,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, alluding to the words of the priests or lay ministers when marking the foreheads of the faithful with ashes in the form of a cross.
The ashes used today come from burnt palms blessed during last year’s Palm Sunday.
The ashes are sprinkled with holy water or oil and smoked with incense.
And since Ash Wednesday this year falls on Valentine’s Day, Palma urged the faithful to ponder upon God’s love which is true and pure.
“We exhort people to be mindful on how we are loved by many people. But let us also remember how we are loved by God above all. Since we are loved, we should also love in return,” he said.
Whether or not one has ashes on his or her forehead, all Catholics are required to fast and abstain.
Catholics aged 18 to 60 are obliged to fast or to eat less on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday which is March 30 this year.
Fasting refers to eating only one complete meal and two smaller ones.
Also on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, Catholics at least 14 years old are obliged to abstain from eating meat.
“Lent is a period to reflect and remember what the Lord has done for us, how much he suffered for our sake, even to the point of giving up His life for us,” Palma said.
“May our observance of Lent bring renewal so that we receive a new life, a life of grace, and become children of God,” he added.
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 March 25 (Palm Sunday).
Of the 46 days until Easter, six are Sundays.