Lenten Prayer

Dear friends: Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a time of fasting, prayer and penance which leads us through the forty days to Jesus’ resurrection. Symbolically the forty days remind us of Jesus spending forty days in the desert praying and fasting. By observing prayerfully the days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days and at the same time contemplating His suffering, death and resurrection. Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. Ashes were used in ancient times as a sign of mourning. The liturgical practice of applying ashes on one’s forehead during the Lenten Season goes back as far as the eighth century. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. They are signs that we are sinners and we are called to repentance. It is an invitation to look into our hearts and make the ancient prayer our own: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Fr. Jerome Mascarenhas

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