Christians mark beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday

Published 10:02 am Thursday, February 26, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — It’s the beginning of one of the most sacred times in the calendar of the Christian church. And yesterday parishioners from various liturgical churches in the county marked Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, by attending services for the imposition of ashes.

Ashes made from the palm crosses distributed during last year’s Palm Sunday service were placed on the foreheads of the faithful in the sign of a cross.

“Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. That is when we are shouting hosannas to the Lord. Then we turn around and crucify him,” the Rev. Charles Moran, pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Chesapeake, explained. “ The ashes are (a symbol of) the discipline that is needed to be a follower of Christ.”

Email newsletter signup

The season of Lent lasts for 40 days and concludes with Maundy Thursday in Holy Week, the Thursday before Easter, and symbolizes the night of the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples before his crucifixion.

Forty is a significant number in Scripture, Moran says. For Noah it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.

“Forty recognizes the beginning of a new state of being, the fullness of life. Forty is the beginning of growth,” Moran said.

During the season of Lent a common practice is to give up something for that time period.

“The idea is that we enter into that moment of doing away with distractions so we can give our attention to the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus,” Moran said.

The Rev. Sallie Schisler, vicar of Christ Episcopal Church in Ironton, says the act of abstinence is a way of developing and improving one’s relationship with God.

“If there is something in your life that is impeding your relationship with God and others, that is what we focus on,” Schisler said. “For some it has become a little bit trite. We will give up chocolate or sweets. … Anger, impatience … it depends on whatever you discern is a barrier between you and God and you and others. A good place to start is to look at your checkbook and date book. That can help you understand the state of your heart.”