Ash Wednesday, Day of Fast
(Seventh Wednesday before Easter )

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The Holy Trinity - by El Greco -from Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (A,B,C)

Jesus said to His disciples: "Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see. Otherwise expect no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause. You can be sure of this much, they are already repaid. In giving alms you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father Who sees in secret will repay you.

"When you are praying, do not behave like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in synagogues or on street corners in order to be noticed. I give you My word, they are already repaid. Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, Who sees what no man sees, will repay you.

"When you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do. They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting. I assure you, they are already repaid. When you fast, see to it that you groom your hair and wash your face. In that way no one can see you are fasting but your Father Who is hidden; and your Father Who sees what is hidden will repay you".

 

 Ash Wednesday

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)Ash Wednesday is the official start of the Season of Lent. A season for penance, reflection and fasting in order to prepare ourselves for Christ's Resurrection and for our own Redemption.

Following the example of the Ninevites (Book of Jonah), who did penance in "sackcloth and ashes", the priest signs our foreheads with ashes to humble our hearts, and reminds us of our mortality on Earth. The only Redemption is with our Lord.

"Remember, man that thou art dust, and into dust thou shall return"

Ashes are a symbol of penance made Sacramental by the blessing of the Church to help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.

The custom is from an old ceremony. Christians who had committed grave faults were obliged to do public penance. On Ash Wednesday the Bishop blessed the hairshirts which they were to wear during the forty days, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the Church because of their sins, as Adam, the first man was turned out of paradise on account of his disobedience. They did not enter the Church again until Holy Thursday, after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days of penance and sacramental absolution. Later on, all Christians, either public or secret penitents, came out of devotion to receive ashes.

God is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy to those who call on Him with repentant hearts and lives. Divine Mercy is of utmost importance; the Church calls on us to implore God's Divine Mercy during the entire Lenten Season with reflection, prayer and penance.

 

Meditations on the Triduum

by Father John Corapi

 

Meditations on the Six Weeks of Lent

by Archbishop Timothy Dolan

 

Meditations on Lent

by Father Frank Pavone

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