On February 13, 2013, Catholics all over the globe will celebrate Ash Wednesday, which commemorates the start of the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday.
The celebration of the Lenten season is in honor of Jesus’ forty-day soul searching in the wilderness of Israel. In these 40 days, Jesus contemplated, reflected, and prepared for the realization of his ministry. In these trying times, he managed to stay away from the devil’s temptations.
As it has been said, the duration of the Lenten season is 40 days. But in actuality, the Lenten season lasts as long as 46 days. This is because the Sundays are not counted, as it is always considered a day of celebrating the coming resurrection. During Lent, Catholics are asked to repent for their sins and be one with Christ in his sacrifice – a sacrifice that gave all of us the promise of Salvation.
Ashes to ashes
In the early days, mourning people put ashes on their foreheads. This mark showed their sincerity in grieving for their sins. This old practice showed the public remorse of the person who has committed a grave sin. Despite the many changes in the religion, this tradition carried on, and up until now, Catholics view ashes as a sign of mourning, repentance, and remorse.
The ashes that will be used in Ash Wednesday 2013 will be burnt remnants of the palms used in Palm Sunday 2012. They will then blessed in a traditional Catholic ritual, and sprinkled with holy water. Oil will be added to these burnt palms in order for the ash to stick on the foreheads.
The foci of the Ash Wednesday 2013 masses will be the penitential Psalms, such as Psalm 51 or the Miserere, which starts with the line “Have mercy on me, O God.”
Since Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season – a time of penitence for Catholics all over the world – the masses that will be done during the day will include confessional rites.
A sacrifice of the stomach
Apart from the ashes that symbolize the repentance that comes with the Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday comes with the traditional fasting. Catholics aged18-59 years in optimal health are only allowed to eat one full meal and two supplemental meals during the day. On Ash Wednesday 2013, Catholics will be mandated to refrain from the consumption of meat such as pork, beef, and chicken. The fasting from meat and poultry should also be observed on all the Fridays of the 2013 Lenten season.
Since the Lenten Season is the time for repentance and new beginnings, the highly-Catholic country of Ireland will make their Ash Wednesday 2013, like the former Ash Wednesdays before it, as the “National No Smoking Day.”
Ash Wednesday 2013 will commence the dawning of the Lenten season, a time to look back on one’s sins to make necessary adjustments to correct his wrongdoings. With it is the beginning of a Catholic’s duty to examine thyself and reflect on his past, present, and future actions.