Ash Wednesday – The Start of the Lenten Season

On Wednesday 14 February we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the doorway into our Lenten season of renewal.

Masses at churches across the Archdiocese took place throughout the day.

At St Chad’s Cathedral the first Mass of Ash Wednesday was celebrated at 12.15pm by Archbishop Bernard Longley and concelebrated by Monsignor Timothy Menezes, cathedral Dean. There was also a sung Mass at 6pm.

In his Homily Mgr Menezes discussed the 40 days that lay ahead of us:

We are beginning 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving which speaks in a particular way about our relationship with God and with those who are in greatest need.

40 days beginning today can seem like a long time ahead, but in the broad sweep of history, God has called people into this relationship of trust over so many years.

It is good for us to consider what we might do this Lent, but it is much more to do with what God is going to do in us and through us.

For us to turn back to the Lord is itself God’s invitation to a share in his life, and the knowledge that if we wander from the Lord, we are not expected to find our way back. God desires our faithfulness.

And whatever it is we might seek to give up for Lent or do extra this Lent, let’s all aim to follow the spirit of the law, not the letter… in this respect:
We seek to do these good things for the 40 days ahead.
But if, through human weakness, we don’t quite manage it, or if we have a blip after the first few days…then remember the Lord’s tenderness and compassion, and remember that this is a time of renewed invitation and opportunity from a God of boundless mercy.

Read Homily in full

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.

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