This Wednesday, we begin the annual season of Lent. The word itself derives from Old English wherein Lent signified springtime. This is not only because the season of Spring begins during Lent, but it also carried the idea of renewal. Lent for us is precisely that, to be renewed in our life of faith through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This is the heart of the season.
The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and, traditionally, we are signed on our foreheads with ashes as a symbol of penance and mourning for our sins. It is an outward sign of our need for repentance and a reminder of the mercy of God for all who repent. The receiving of ashes is not vital for beginning the season- it is only an outward sign of our intention to deepen and renew our lives by more fully conforming to Christ. Given our desire to continue safe practices during the Covid pandemic, the distribution of ashes will not be by the minister tracing a cross on your forehead. Instead, the ashes will be sprinkled on the top of your head avoiding any physical contact. This is going back to an ancient practice of the Church. Many of you may not want to receive in this way. The good news is no one is obliged to receive ashes. What is vital to Lent is inward renewal of heart and soul made manifest in concrete actions.—Fr Patrick