A CALL TO RETURN TO THE LORD
March 1, 2019 | Pastor's Corner
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of another season of Lent. Lent is one of the most popular and historical devotions of the Catholic Christianity: ashes are put on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, the Way of the Cross is a devotional prayer that is quite popular during the season of Lent especially on Friday and blessed palms are a part of the celebration of the Passion.
A popular question we hear during Lent is: What are you giving up for Lent? Often people reply: chocolate, desserts, pop, candy or sweets. The traditional Lenten practices we inherit from the early centuries of the Church are threefold which we hear on Ash Wednesday: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
In the early Church, when Lent was a time for reconciliation of public penitents, the penitents would come to the church at the beginning of Lent, that is, on Ash Wednesday. They would wear a penitential garment, like sackcloth and be sprinkled with ashes. Then they would be ritually expelled from the assembly to do their penance for forty days, returning to the church on Holy Thursday, when they would be readmitted to the sacraments. With time, the expulsion of penitents disappeared, but the ashes remained and became a call to penance for all the faithful.
The prophet Joel who speaks to us on Ash Wednesday, encourages us to turn our hearts back to the Lord and experience the Lord’s mercy especially through the directives given by Jesus: fasting, prayer and almsgiving.