Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the doorway into our Lenten season of renewal.
Masses at churches across the Archdiocese are taking place throughout today.
At St Chad’s Cathedral the first Mass of Ash Wednesday was celebrated at 12.15pm by Monsignor Timothy Menezes, Cathedral Dean, and concelebrated by Fr Chris Marshall. There is also a Mass at 6pm.
Ash Wednesday is rich in associations and symbolism. It marks the beginning of Lent – a time for turning again to the practice of our faith, in prayer, self-denial (fasting) and practical generosity (almsgiving).
As part of the blessing and distribution of ashes, clergy will make a sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead, accompanied by the words: “Repent and believe in the Good News” or “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Lent is traditionally a 40-day fast — a reference to the time Jesus spent being tempted in the desert, as well as the 40 years that the Israelites spent in exile.
It is a time when we can prepare our hearts for the solemn remembrance of Jesus’ death.
It concludes and is followed by the Easter Sunday celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
The six-week period (excluding Sundays) is dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the great celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in the Easter Triduum.
Ash Wednesday is a penitential service that uses ash to mark the sign of the cross on the believer’s forehead, symbolising our sinful nature and need for salvation.
The Catholic Church usually uses the ashes of Palm Sunday branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service, thus bringing us full circle to our last celebration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we are called to turn away from sin, to repent and to believe the Good News of our salvation through Jesus Christ.