Lent is already here; Is Easter far behind?
Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter and can fall as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ’s resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (six days) during six weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (four days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days. Orthodox do this 40 days in a row.
Ash Wednesday, March 1, derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
The blessing and distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday normally takes place after the homily and only then. This rite may be celebrated by a priest or deacon who may be assisted by lay ministers in the distribution of the ashes. The blessing of the ashes, however, is reserved to a priest or deacon.
The Season of Lent begins at MIDNIGHT on the morning of Ash Wednesday. It is not possible to anticipate Ash Wednesday with a Vigil on Tuesday evening, as it is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
As it has been traditional in the parish in previous years, there will be resources to help in the carrying out of the three disciplines of Lent:
– Fasting & Abstinence – The rules are provide in another part of the bulletin and can be cut out and posted for your use all Lent long. Also so that we have another opportunity to abstain from meat on Fridays, the Knights of Columbus will be holding Fish Fries every Friday during Lent starting on March 3 at 5:00 PM in the Parish Center.
– Almsgiving – The poor box will be in the center of the Commons for any noisy loose change or more importantly, any quiet folded money or checks. Collection Cans for Lent will be in the Commons next weekend. New this year we have a “Giving Basket” asking for help from our parishioners to supply our school with some much needed classroom materials.
– Prayer – There will be daily prayer resources available. In this Sunday’s bulletin there is a 40 day Lenten Exercise that can be used to help start your daily prayer. Also, there will be black booklets with daily Lenten reflections and spiritual reading books on a bookcase in the Commons.
So make it your challenge for the forty days of Lent to see how you can move yourself toward the experience of the Easter Resurrection where Jesus gave up His life for our salvation.
O Lord, as we prepare for this Lenten season give us the courage to live out our lives with appreciation of your love for us. Amen