Catholics are one of the Christian denominations around the world to observe Ash Wednesday today, marking the beginning of the lent period.
The Meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent
The Head of the Catholic Church in Fiji, Archbishop Peter Loy Chong says Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.
Known as the Lenten period the 40 days of fasting and abstinence leads to Easter Sunday which marks the resurrection of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who, Christians believe, was crucified on Calvary to save mankind from their sins.
“Ash Wednesday is also known as the ‘Day of Ashes’. So called because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross,” Archbishop Loy Chong said.
“Putting a ‘cross’ mark on the forehead was in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian at baptism.
“In the Old Testament ashes were used for two purposes: As a sign of humility and mortality and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin. The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has also been taken from this Old Testament biblical custom.”
Archbishop Loy Chong said “Lent is not about giving up as it is about returning to the source that is God.
“Giving up the things we are attached to or like very much can only make sense if they lead us to a deeper experience of God.
“For Christians, Lent is the great period of preparation to welcome the Risen Jesus at Easter.
“Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbour.
He said “Thus, it is sinful to ignore the needs of others. Ash Wednesday and Lent calls us to turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel of love. Sin is failing to love.
“Lent is a time to renew our commitment to love the poor.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ “Matthew 25:35-36.
“Ash Wednesday and Lent reminds us of our need for God and through the external practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting, we are invited to reach beyond ourselves and place the needs of others before our own. Lent invites us to express our faith and our love for our neighbors in action.”
Catholic Archdiocese of Suva Lenten Appeal: “Rebuilding Communities One Home at a Time”
Archbishop Loy Chong said putting almsgiving into action, the Catholic Archdiocese of Suva carries out an annual diocesan Lenten Appeal.
He said this year’s Lenten theme is “Rebuilding Communities – One Home at a Time”.
“All donations will go towards building houses for the homeless,” he said.
“Our poor brothers and sisters look forward to your generosity. Your donation will make a difference to a family with poor housing.
“Let’s join hearts and build a house for a poor family.”