for Sunday, February 22, 2009
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. Our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and remind us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told,"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return." Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
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. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are universal days of fast and abstinence. Catholics still consider Fridays throughout Lent as days of abstinence. Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 59 is obliged to fast and abstain. Fasting is the limitation of food and drink, typically to one main meal and two smaller ones, with no solid foods between. Abstaining, is the refraining from certain kinds of food or drink, typically meat.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: