Categories: General Date: Feb 14, 2018 Title: Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday, which is celebrated this year on February 14, marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a season of prayer, fasting and alms-giving which prepares us to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
While Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all Catholics are encouraged to participate in the Eucharist on this day in order to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.
Ash Wednesday is, however, a day of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means that Catholics from 18 years of age up to the beginning of their 60th year are expected to eat only one full meal and two other light meals on this day, with nothing to eat between meals. Abstinence means that Catholics over 14 years of age are expected to abstain from eating meat on this day. In Canada, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. Although every Friday is a day of abstinence, you can choose to do special acts of charity or piety instead.
The ashes that are used are created by burning the palms that were blessed on Palm Sunday of the previous year. These ashes are then imposed by the priest on the foreheads of the faithful. As he uses the ashes to trace the sign of the cross, the priest says either “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The ashes are a visible sign that reminds us that life passes away on Earth. They are also a visible sign of our willingness to enter into the season of Lent and to renew ourselves spiritually through fasting, prayer and alms-giving.