Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and crucial days in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. It opens and welcomes Lenten season of the church, which was traditionally informed and formed in taking good steps of the master, Jesus who fasted 40 days and nights in the desert. 

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice that includes the wearing of ashes on the head and many other penitential exercises that shows our innermost readiness to ask for forgiveness and abandon our old and evil ways. 

The Ashes are obtained from the burning of the palms of the previous Palm Sunday, which occurs on the Sunday before Easter. The ashes are typically mixed with Holy Water or oil before applying them on persons. It symbolizes the dust from which God formed us, vividly brought out in the words of the priest when applying the ashes to a person's forehead, he speaks the words: "REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE DUST, AND TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN."

The ashes are applied in the shape of a cross, which symbolizes penance, mourning and mortality. Centuries ago, participants used to sprinkle themselves with ashes and repent much more publicly, but the practice fell away sometime between the 8th-10th centuries before evolving into what it is today. There is no particular rule about how long the ashes should be worn, but most people wear them throughout the day. 

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days journey of Lent, a roughly six-week period (not including Sundays) dedicated to reflection, prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter. It ends on Holy Thursday that marks the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, Lenten season is a period of spiritual and inward introspective journey into our lives as children of God. Predominantly marked with extensive and intensive FASTING, PRAYER, ALMS GIVING and REPENTANCE. It is a holy moment to bring in view our Christian call to holiness in juxtaposition to our present life. It is a season of spiritual surgery and bisection to amend our evil ways and live holier and perfect as our Holy Father calls us to be holy.

Culled from the reflections of Rev. Fr. Boniface Ezeokeke

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