Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics. The ashes we receive on our forehead in the shape of a cross serve as an outward sign of our sinfulness and need for penance. The ashes also symbolize our mortality, a reminder that one day we will die and our bodies will return to dust. Hence the traditional words,"Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return".
Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. According to Church law, Catholics older than the age of 14 are supposed to abstain from meat. In addition, those between the ages of 18 and 59, not including pregnant or nursing mothers, should eat only one full meal. Smaller amounts of food (not as much as a full meal) may be eaten in the morning and either at lunchtime or dinner, depending on when you eat your full meal.
I woke up early and went to 7am mass. I'm not used to silent masses as I am in the choir. I got my ashes, but instead of a dainty cross, I got a big blotch in the middle of my head, so now everyone is looking at me like I forgot to wash my face.
The meal thing is not a problem for me as I eat mostly vegetarian, and some fish. So for dinner tonight, we are having salmon. For the next 5 weeks, Friday night will be Pizza night for my daughter, I don't eat pizza. This Friday is our girl's night out. We are going to BBQs, so I have to find something fish and no drinking. Not that I gave that up for Lent, I don't drink much anyway, and I found out that liquor increases my inflammation, so I'll have a soda or a virgin drink.
What am I giving up for Lent? Over the past few years I have tried to give up something difficult. In the past I've given up: Anger, Gossip. Gossip is the harder of the two. This year, I think it will be anger again. I don't get angry often, and I've gotten better over the years, but I think it is worth making the extra effort during Lent.
What I like about Lent most of all is the music we sing in Church. We sing a lot of Latin. Most of my favorite church songs are sung during Lent:
- O Mysterium Ineffabile
- Panis Angelicus
- Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart & Elgar's version)
- Recusito (He has risen) (Good Friday)
- The Seven Last Words (Good Friday)
- Hallelujah Chorus (Easter vigil / Easter Sunday)
Stuff not sang during Lent.
(Which if anyone is interested is changing starting in September. They changed the words and music to the Gloria and Lamb of God...so be prepared.)
Lent is a very solemn time in the church, but also the most beautiful.