Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten Season. A season meant to be used for personal introspection and discernment. A day when we hear the words of the priest when we receive the ashes on our forehead, in the shape of a cross, "O man, remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Lent is a season of repentance and the ashes we receive on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, signify our death, and repentance for our sins.
The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Lencten, which means "spring".
You might hear someone say they are giving up chocolate for Lent, or Facebook, or Coffee, Tea, or Coca-Cola. Those seem to be very popular. The truth is, the 'giving up' is meant as a form of discipline, and although it's good to use it as a form of penance and discipline, it's also very important to actually add something during Lent. More prayer time, reading a book that would be spiritually enlightening, daily Mass.
Fasting and Abstinence during Lent are practices which have been in place for hundreds of years. Fasting is a limitation of the amount of food one takes in during the day. Abstinence denotes giving up a certain food for a specific time period. Catholics have days of fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, every Friday of Lent, and Good Friday. So on those days, we limit our food to one main meal, the other two meals to be substantially smaller, or both combined, not to equal a full meal. On those days, we also abstain from red meat, or anything that may contain meat by-products. Many people only take bread and water on those days. The fasting and abstinence isn't applied to those who are elderly (the Church uses the age of 60, however, this is voluntary), may have a serious illness, or to children under the age of 14.
Until next time.