Journey to Holy Week begins today
Kristine B. Quintas (The Freeman) - February 9, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Catholics will observe Ash Wednesday today to mark the start of the 40-day Lenten season, described as a season of penance, reflection, sacrifice, prayer and fasting to prepare the faithful for Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will officiate a Mass at 7 a.m. at the Archbishop’s Palace today.

 The ash, which will be marked on the forehead of attendees in a sign of the cross, represents repentance and humility. It is also a reminder that “as man is dust, so unto dust he shall return” a passage from Genesis 3:19.

 The ashes will be made from blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year, christened with Holy Water and scented by exposure to incense.

 While ashes symbolize penance and contrition, church officials said these also serve as a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts.

 Following the example of the Ninevites who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, foreheads of the faithful are marked with ashes to humble their hearts and remind them that life on Earth is fleeting.

Ninevites, as mentioned in the Book of the prophet Jonah, are people of Nineveh, which lies on the eastern bank of the Tigris in ancient Assyria near the modern-day major city of Mosul in Iraq.

Fasting

While Ash Wednesday falls on different days each year, it is customarily celebrated 40 days before Easter as a tribute to the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before he was found and blessed by John the Baptist.

In observance of the Lenten season, Catholics are urged to abstain from eating meat during Fridays. When they fail to do so, they can make up for it by doing an act of charity, including not speaking ill of other people, helping people who are in need, praying for the intention of others, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and giving alms.

 The church clarified that fasting does not necessarily mean eating nothing.

The 40-day period of fasting represents the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent at the Judean wilderness praying and fasting and enduring the temptation of Satan.

 The Law on Abstinence is binding to Catholics who are 14 years old and above, while the Law on Fasting covers those between 18 to 60 years old. –/JMO (FREEMAN)

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