From the Rectory
February 2007

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ashes are a very ancient symbol of mourning and repentance. A very old tradition has penitents going about wearing 'sackcloth and ashes.' Ashes are distributed in churches on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The priest dips his thumb in a small dish of ashes - made by burning palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday - and then makes a cross with his thumb on a person's forehead, saying 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return, turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ'.

In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday, together with Good Friday, is a day of fasting and abstinence. This means that only one main meal (plus perhaps a light snack) may be eaten and no meat. You might see, as you go along Shirley Road someone with an ash cross on their forehead. Friends of mine once went into a Fish and Chip shop for supper after the Service and received some very strange looks!

Traditionally Lent lasts for forty days - the forty days that Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting and preparing for His public ministry. These forty days exclude the Sundays of Lent. On Sundays, you can give yourself a bit of a break from any self-imposed penance you may have for this season. This is particularly so on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, which is also known as Mothering Sunday. Have a Holy and prayerful Lent and you will enjoy Easter the more for it.

Yours for Christ's sake.