Lent begins with Ash Wednesday service
Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 9, 2011 at 7:01 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2011 at 9:09 p.m.
What is lent?
Lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and ends on Holy Saturday, April 23. The 40-day season culminates with Easter Sunday.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, a service where Christians mark their foreheads with ashes as a public sign of repentance.
Catholics traditionally observe Lent, though some Protestants observe the season. Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians and Methodists are included in this group.
Pre-Lenten festivals include Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Maslenitsa, Pancake Day.
Blessing the ashes that would soon adorn the foreheads of the faithful, the Rev. Dan Morales, a St. Mary's Catholic Church priest, offered a simple prayer to God before continuing Ash Wednesday services.
"Lord bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness, and bless these ashes on all who receive them," Morales said, sprinkling holy water on three bowls of ashes made from the previous year's palms. "May they receive this Lenten season in preparation of Easter."
One by one, members of St. Mary's filed in a single line along the steps of the sanctuary and waited quietly and reverently for Father to impose the sign of the cross on their face.
"Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return," he said, thumbing black ashes on his congregation's foreheads.
The Ash Wednesday services kicked off the season of Lent, a 46-day period of reflection until Easter Sunday, the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
The six Sundays in Lent are not counted, making the season 40 days long.
Millions of Christians worldwide will usher in the Lenten season with observances of Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday observers fast from meat, and others meals, though some will fast for the entire day. Meat is also avoided on the Fridays during Lent, and day-long fasting is again expected on Good Friday, April 22.
Lenten observers also traditionally give something up for the season, which can range from personal vices such as television watching, and computer games, to abstaining from unhealthy foods like sugar and fast-food.
St. Mary's member Lilia Vianes said she decided to give up watching morning television and be more concerned with others.
"I'm a religious Catholic, a believer in Christ and his resurrection, and this is part of my faith," Vianes said reflecting on the Ash Wednesday service. "I want to spend Lent being a little less critical and more patient with others."
Fellow church member Jeff Osterhaut said observing the Lenten season is a must for everyone.
"We need this, everyone needs this - to come to the Lord," Osterhaut said.
When asked what he decided to give up for Lent, Osterhaut laughed, "I'm hoping to give up a little food for the season. I'm getting big."
Morales concluded Ash Wednesday services with a reminder of the good weeks to come before Easter.
"This is a joyful time of preparation of the Lord's coming," he said. "May the Lord be with you."