Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Ash Wednesday and Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday. This is a Christian holy day that marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a 40-day season of fasting, considered as preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.
There isn't any Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, scholars of Christianity still date the 40-day fasting period back to 325 A.D. Lent mirrors Jesus’ own 40-day period of fasting, described in the book of Matthew. Observers have ash signed in the sign of the cross on their foreheads as a priest utters words from Genesis 3:19. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Fasting requirements for Catholics are outlined by the Code of Canon Law. This includes eating no meat on the Fridays during Lent, as well as fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (Fasting in this case refers to eating just one full meal a day.)
Many Christians will make personal vows of abstinence during Lent, which could include anything from refraining from eating candy, meat, vowing not to gossip, or being less selfish. Others vow to do more for others, like volunteering and working for social justice. All are expected to spend more time in prayer and reflection as Lent is considered by many to be an opportunity for spiritual transformation.