A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Today is Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. At his audience today, the Holy Father (the Pope, Benedict) told us:

"Lent stimulates us to allow our lives to be penetrated by the word of God and in that way to know the fundamental truth about who we are, where we come from, where we are going and what is the path we must follow in our lives."

In his main audience talk, sprinkled with explanations not contained in his prepared text, the pope looked at the two phrases used when distributing ashes: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" and "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

The first, he said, is a reminder that people have fallen and have limits, and it "is meant to urge us to place all our hope in God alone."

Lent is a time of "fasting, penance and vigilance over ourselves, knowing that the struggle against sin never ends because temptation is an everyday reality, and fragility and disillusionment are experienced by everyone," the pope said.

The admonition to "convert and believe in the Gospel," he said, "places firm and faithful adhesion to the Gospel at the foundation of personal and communal renewal."

"The Christian life is a life of faith founded and nourished on the word of God," he said. "In the trials of life and before every temptation, the secret of victory consists in listening to the word of truth and decisively refusing falsehood and evil.

"This is the real program of the Lenten period: to listen to the word of truth, to live, speak and act in truth and to refuse falsehood, which poisons humanity and is at the root of all evil," the pope said.
Pope John Paul II's 2001 Ash Wednesday Homily.

During Lent, Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday, Fridays, and, especially, Good Friday, abstaining from meat and eating more than necessary. Many chose to give something up, in solidarity with Jesus Christ, who gave up His life for us. This is not a punishment, but a form of prayer. Others take on something extra.

Learn about Ash Wednesday here and here, and here and here. Visit here to learn some of the difference between the Roman Catholic Church's Lent and the Eastern Church's Lent.

Catholic Culture has a Lenten Workshop, with prayers, hymns, activities, a personal program, and Stations of the Cross.