Ash Wednesday: A Christian's call to repentance

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Mardi Gras beads have been thrown and the king cakes have been eaten. For some, the day after Mardi Gras is just another day. But for Christians, specifically Catholics, it is a time of repentance to spiritually prepare for the Easter season.


Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is often seen as a day to "fill up" before a day of fasting. During the Lenten season in the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days when the faithful are required to abstain from eating meat and to only eat small meals. Abstaining from meat is also required on all Fridays in Lent.

What is Ash Wednesday?

On Ash Wednesday, Christians put ashes on their foreheads in the sign of a cross as a reminder that they will one day become dust. It is an outward sign to show that this life is temporary. It also is a nod to the Jewish tradition of covering oneself in ashes as a form of repentance. Catholics receive their ashes at Mass, made from burnt palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday.

What is Lent?

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and prayer for Catholics. It is meant to reflect on Jesus' 40 days in the desert. Sundays are not counted in Lent as part of the 40 days. Catholics usually "give up" or "take on" something as part of their spiritual journey. For example, some may give up eating sweets or drinking soda for 40 days, and others may add extra prayers or Bible study.

Why does Lent exist?

Lent leads up to Good Friday, traditionally reserved as the day when Jesus died on the cross. Good Friday is a day of deep reverence and reflection for Christians. Lent is a spiritual tool to help purify the heart and soul in the days leading up to the Good Friday memorial and the joyful celebration of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday.

Who can participate in Lent?

Lent is a Catholic tradition but other Christian denominations have adapted Lenten practices as well throughout the years. Anyone can participate in the practices. However, if you have health conditions, are nursing or pregnant, or have outstanding circumstances, it is not advised to participate in fasting. Check with your doctor first.

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