Today, February 17, marks Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar. It also signals the start of the liturgical season of Lent in the year 2021, falling just 46 days before the culmination of the season on April 4, Easter Sunday.
According to Catholic teachings, Ash Wednesday got its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance to God. The ashes that are used are mostly gathered after the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned.
However, for this year, some changes have been made to age-old traditions that mark the Ash Wednesday celebrations. In particular, the Catholic Church in the Philippines urges the faithful to burn their own palms or dried leaves at home in order to keep everyone safe while in observance of the season. Catholic priests are also instructed to sprinkle the ashes on people’s heads instead of using them to mark foreheads with crosses.
Despite these changes, the essence of Ash Wednesday remains the same: It is a day of repentance that marks one of the most holy seasons of the Catholic calendar, Lent. Let us observe this with this short prayer.
Ash Wednesday Prayer
Heavenly Father, Blessed One, have mercy on us. Lord, as we repent our sins to You. We have been deficient in Your glory and without your mercy and grace, we would be non-existent. Father, we repent now. Lord, as we embark onto this Lenten season, be close to us. Help us Lord, through Your Holy Spirit, to believe in what is right and in repentance for our sin. Help us, by your Spirit, to have the strength to defeat the enemy.
Thank you, Father, that Easter is arriving! Death has no power, no victory, because of Jesus! Glory and honor and praise be to His Name! Lord, thank you for rescuing us. Help us appreciate both the importance and the joy of this season in our hearts and as we move through the next several weeks. Help us bear the good fruit of Your Spirit.
Father, thank you, for the ashes on our forehead do not symbolize our ultimate reality. We might have been formed from the dust , but our bodies, our spirits, ourselves, await beautiful redemption and the restoration of all things. Help us wait and look forward to that day, and let it come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Prayer from catholicreadings.org