Christians throughout the Southland observed Ash Wednesday today, beginning the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, self-denial and good works.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown.
In the Roman Catholic church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
"Lent reminds us that our Christian life is a journey, that we are all following the call of Jesus in our lives, that we are always walking with Jesus," Gomez said.
He said Lent gives people a chance to examine their lives and "to grow in our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus."
"We can come to daily Mass and we can go to confession," he said. "We can make sacrifices to care for one another -- maybe by visiting our neighbors or family members who are sick and elderly, or maybe by finding more time to be with our children or our spouses."
--City News Service