Christians throughout the Southland observed Ash Wednesday yesterday, 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 of 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.
During Ash Wednesday Mass, Archbishop Jose Gomez make reference to the release of personnel files of priests accused of sexual misconduct in his Lenten message, distributed to parishes in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles Friday, before Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign Feb. 28.
“We need to be transformed once more by the person of Jesus Christ and the power of his Gospel,” Gomez wrote. “We need to live our faith win new sincerity, new zeal, new purpose and new purity. We need a new desire to be his disciples.”
The Dolores Mission Catholic Church in Boyle Heights marked the beginning of Lent with a Mass focusing on obtaining U.S. citizenship for all.
“Our parish leaders have decided that the theme for our Lent is ‘To God, we are not immigrants. We are all citizens,’” said Fr. Scott Santarosa, S.J., the church’s pastor.
“Just as Jesus enters the desert for 40 days in a time of preparation for his public ministry, so also we enter these 40 days of Lent to prepare to work for citizenship for all.”