Ash Wednesday

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“You are Dust, and to Dust You Shall Return.” (Genesis 3:19)

According to churchyear.net, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. On this day, ashes are blessed, mixed with either holy oil or water, and imposed on the head with the sign of the cross, or sprinkled on the forehead. The ashes are made from burning palm branches blessed the previous year on Palm Sunday.

When the priest imposes the ashes he says either “remember man you are dust, and to dust you will return” (see Genesis 3:19), or “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

The ashes serve a dual purpose. First, as the above words imply, we are reminded of our mortality and humanity as we begin the Lenten Fast. Second, the ashes are a Biblical symbol of repentance, sorrow, and humility.

Today, February 25, 2009, not only marks the beginning of Lent but also the 23rd year of the First EDSA Revolution in the Philippines. I attended Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church (now MCC) at 12:15 noon. The church was packed to the rafters. A lot of people were standing at the back. Some were seated outside. The ceremony already began when I arrived. I quickly made my way at the back. During the sermon, the Bishop apologized for starting the Mass earlier than the usual time, due to the length of the ceremony.

He explained that Lent starts today and ends in the morning of Holy Thursday. Easter starts in the afternoon of that same day. He emphasized that this time is an opportunity for us to reflect and repent on the wrongdoings that we have done and cleanse ourselves from sin by fasting and penance. He also exhorted us to be humble and obedient to God’s will.

The imposition of the ashes was done before the offertory. People lined up in all sides of the pews and took their turn as the lay ministers say upon imposition of the ashes, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” I made my way outside the church as I saw some vacant mono-bloc chairs. I was observing the parishioners as they lined up to have the ashes placed on their forehead. People from all walks of life came. Since it was during lunch beak , most people were from the office and stores around the area. Some were couples and families. Students also attended the Mass. I saw some familiar faces and waved at them. Since it was nearly 1pm, some people did not wait for the Mass to continue but left in order not to be late for work. Some stayed until the communion. While most stayed behind until the end of the Mass.

A thought came into my head. Is having the ashes placed on our forehead enough so as not to stay until the Mass has ended? I grew up in a catholic school and I believe it is but proper to stay until the end of the Mass. But, be that as it may, sometimes I am guilty of leaving just right after communion, and not waiting for the priest to say, “Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.” Which is more important, Faith or Work? I guess it works both ways. “Faith without work is dead.” All work and no Faith makes Jane a dull girl…or something like that. We got to have both in order for it to be more effective.

Just as what happened 23 years ago in EDSA, it was the people faith in God and their will to stand up against dictatorship that made EDSA a success, more of a MIRACLE, because it was a bloodless revolution. So, it works both ways. FAITH and WORK should go hand in hand…

Have a holy and peaceful LENTEN SEASON to all…God Bless…

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