Ash Wednesday, also known as the “Day of Ashes”, marks the beginning of 40-day Lenten Season. Lent is the time when Christians observe a period of abstinence, fasting, repentance, and moderation in preparation for the commemoration of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice for the earth’s salvation.
During this day, most Christians (Catholics, specifically) have their foreheads marked with the shape of the cross using ashes, while the priest or lay minister utter the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
In the Old Testament, ashes were used for two purposes:
- As a sign of humility and mortality; and
- As a sign of sorrow and repentance for sins.
This means marking a cross on the forehead using ash is a reminder of our mortality and a symbol of our repentance and penance. Along with the observation of fasting, abstinence, and sincere spiritual discipline, there shall be atonement for our sins and our souls shall be purified.
Three years ago, a priest shared his own definitions for the acronym ASH when we attended the Ash Wednesday mass. According to that priest, these are three of the most important practices and values that we should observe every day, especially during this Lenten Season.
If you want to prepare yourself spiritually for lent, just remember what ASH stands for:
A for Alms-giving
As Christians, we should learn to be more sensitive and empathetic to the needs of our fellow human beings. Alms-giving is one way to share what we have, and to help others who are not known or related to us. We are also reminded that sincere merciful deeds must be kept private, away from the other people’s prying eyes.
But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.Matthew 6:3
S for Sacrifice
It is common knowledge that the Season of Lent is a period of sacrifice. This is the time when most Christians choose to fast and abstain. Though we usually associate “fasting” and “abstinence” with food and meat, some of us can do more sacrifice by abstaining from the things that we are addicted to other than food and meat. For instance, some people opt to deactivate their social media accounts for 40 days during Lent as a form of abstinence.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.Matthew 6:17-18
H for Holiness
This is obviously the most difficult to achieve, human and sinners as we are. Yet this is the goal of Lent.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.2 Timothy 1:9
This acronym will help us remember what we need to do to prepare our hearts and spirit for the resurrection of Christ.
May we all have a fruitful sacrifice. A blessed and solemn Lenten Season to all.
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