It begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
Following the example of the Nine-vites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told
"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."
Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.
Here is some information on the program:
About A Quick Journey Through the Bible:
This eight-part program provides an excellent introduction to The Bible Timeline learning system as well as a meaningful overview of salvation history. Jeff Cavins briefly covers the same information taught in The Bible Timeline seminar in a series of eight, half-hour talks that are complemented by group discussion questions, useful maps and charts, and brief assignments for home study. This is a great way to “get your feet wet” and learn how to begin authentic Catholic Bible study.
Your Bible study group will:
- Learn the 14 narrative books of the Bible and the 12 major time periods of salvation history.
- Discover the major people, places, events, & themes of the Bible.
- Study the six covenants God made with humanity, leading to the establishment of the Catholic Church.
- See how the 14 narrative books fit in with the other 59 books of the Bible.
- Learn how to use the color-coded tools to remember the important time-periods of the Old and New Testament.
I wish you all a deep and meaningful Lent, and I pray that you will enjoy a spiritual encounter with our Lord.
To help with my preparation, I will also be abstaining from the Internet for Lent (However - In the tradition, Sundays are excluded due to their significance as Joyful celebrations).