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Celebrating Christian lent

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Added 22nd March 2016 01:04 PM

Why should Catholics be smeared with ashes at the start of the Lent Season? Ash is a symbol of humility and repentance. In the Bible, when Jonah preached to the Ninevites, they repented and as a sign of their repentance, they put on sack cloth and sat in ash (Jonah 3:6)

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Rev. Fr. Hilary R. Munyaneza is a student in Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome – Italy

Why should Catholics be smeared with ashes at the start of the Lent Season? Ash is a symbol of humility and repentance. In the Bible, when Jonah preached to the Ninevites, they repented and as a sign of their repentance, they put on sack cloth and sat in ash (Jonah 3:6)

By Rev. Fr. Hilary R. Munyaneza

On February 10, Catholics in various parts of the world flocked to Churches to celebrate the start of the special season of Lent.  This first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday.  It is called so because the Catholics are smeared with sacred ash on the forehead with the words said by the priest that, "repent and believe the Gospel" or "you are dust and to dust you shall return."  This sacred ash is made from the Palms that were used last year on Palm Sunday.

Why should Catholics be smeared with ashes at the start of the Lent Season?  Ash is a symbol of humility and repentance.  In the Bible, when Jonah preached to the Ninevites, they repented and as a sign of their repentance, they put on sack cloth and sat in ash (Jonah 3:6)

The fundamental pillars that mark the Catholic Lent are three.  These are prayer, fasting and charity.  Does this, therefore, mean that Catholics pray, fast and do charitable deeds only during the Lent season?  NO.  In the season of Lent, we are encouraged to do so with more vigor.

These three pillars are inter-connected.  In prayer, God fills us with His love and so we are able to love others and see their needs.  It is in love that we reach out to others and because we do not give from abundance or what is superfluous, we make sacrifices in many ways, among which is fasting.  This means that prayer leads to fasting which leads to charity.

The season of Lent has time duration of 40 days.  These days are counted starting from Ash Wednesday but excluding the Sundays.  In the Bible, the figure 40 has a special significance, especially in the context of preparation for a special event.

Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments as we read, "Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water" (Exodus 34:28). Elijah walked "40 days and 40 nights" to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) (I Kings 19:8). Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for "40 days and 40 nights" in the desert before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4:2).

In living this season of Lent, let us strive to pray more fervently, fast more sincerely and be more generous not only with material goods but also with our time, talents, advice to friends and community.  In doing this, we shall live and celebrate the very heart of Lent.

The writer is a student in Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome – Italy.

 

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