By Christiana Gokyo, Jos
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Easter journey in the Christian calendar and is the period of 40 days, which comes before Easter.
Lent is a season of sober reflection and preparation before the celebration of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
Easter Triduum (Latin: Triduum Paschale) is the three days that begin with the liturgy on the evening of Manundy (Thursday), that is, Holy Thursday, and ends with evening prayers on Sunday.
Holy Thursday commemorates the day that Jesus Christ lay in the tomb after his death, according to Christian Bible. It is the day after Good Friday, before Easter Sunday, which is also known as Easter Eve – that black Saturday or Saturday before Easter.
Palm Sunday commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:19) when branches of palms were placed in his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday, and his Crucifixion on Good Friday. Thus, it marks the beginning of Holy Week, and the final week of Lent.
Christians celebrate Palm Sunday all over the world, carrying palms and other branches, because it’s a celebration of the day Jesus entered Jerusalem before he was crucified and resurrected, according to the Christian faith.
Lent is a season of prayers and fasting before Easter. During this period of 40 days, Catholics attend Mass and do reconciliation and personal penance with God.
Ash Wednesday reminds every Catholic to remember that, ‘you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Ashes also symbolize grief; in this case, grief that ‘we have sinned and caused division from God.’
Since from second-century, Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance. The Priest administers ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as visible symbol of penance. Even none-Christians and excommunicated are welcome to receive the ashes.
These ashes are made from blessed palm branches taken from the previous year’s Palms Sunday Mass. Children, the elderly and the sick are exempted from this observance of the fasting.
Lent also prepares Christians to Christ’s resurrection, through which we attain redemption. We receive ashes, following the example of Ninevities, who did penance in tablecloth and ashes on their foreheads. Our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts, and it reminds Christians that, ‘life passes away on earth.’
Christians remember this when they are told, “Remember, man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.” Ashes are a symbol of penance made Sacramental by the blessings of the Church, and they help Christians develop the spirit of humility and sacrifice.
It is also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those, who call on to him with repented heart, and his divine mercy is of utmost importance during this season of Lent.
The Church calls on Christians to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance, during this period, along with devotion. Stations of the Cross every Wednesday and Fridays, is being said; this refers to the depiction of the final hours or Passion of Jesus Christ.
Devotion commemorating the Passion Stations of the Cross is a 14-step Catholic devotion that observes Jesus Christ’s last day on earth as a man.
The 14 devotions or “stations” focused on specific events of his last day. Beginning with his condemnation, the stations are commonly used as mini-pilgrimage as the individual moves from station-to-station; and at each state the individual recalls and meditates on specific event from Christ’s last day.
Specific prayers are being recited, until all the 14 Stations are completed and are commonly found in Churches as series of 14 small icons or images, and also in Church yards arranged along paths to fulfill the traditional one to abstain from meat during the period Fridays. It is an obligation in the doctrine of the Christian spirituality that is a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and returning back to God.
The Lenten period is mostly observed by Roman Catholics and, this year, it’s expected to begin on “Ash” Wednesday, 14th February, 2018, which also coincides with Valentine’s Day.
The Catholic Church recognized this day as Saint Valentine’s Day. In the Catholic calendar, he was priest, which the church celebrates and is being celebrated worldwide. It’s also an important day to Catholics.