This year’s Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the liturgical celebration of Lent, is on St. Valentine’s Day. Initially, I found this to be odd, but upon contemplation, I found it to be the perfect day for both days. St. Valentine was a Christian priest who performed Christian marriages against the decrees of the pagan Roman Emperor in the 3rd century CE/AD. He was martyred for it and later declared to be a saint by the Church.
Lent marks the mourning of the death of Christ by crucifixion of the Romans believed to have happened around 30-33 AD as Jesus was 33 when he was crucified (Good Friday). Of course, he arose from the dead on the Sunday morning, which we celebrate as Easter, which is when Lent stops and we can stop mourning and start celebrating with great amounts of light in the church for Mass that Easter Vigil night and Easter morning.
To mark this mourning period (40 days excluding Sundays), we take an ashen cross upon our heads as a sign that we are faithful Christians and remember the sacrifice of love that Jesus made for us. You see, love is the key. Love is why Jesus Christ chose to die for humanity’s sins so that when we are baptized (first cleansing of our sins) in the Trinitarian formula; we are born into eternal life. Since we are human, we are likely to sin again; hence, the need for confession to the priest for what we must do for absolution. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead on that Easter morning gives us hope for a hopeful place in Heaven with him, the Blessed Mother, and all the saints. Jesus loved us so much that he suffered humiliation, mockery, torture, and cruel pain by being nailed to a cross.
For Lent, we aren’t asked to sacrifice much: simply no meat on Fridays (in honor of Good Friday) and we go through the 14 Stations of the Cross. These are the key 14 moments in the horrible events of Jesus Christ’s passion (in Latin, passion means suffering) and death. Normally, we fast by eating either one big meal and two smaller meals or 2 small meals during Lent. Fish is usually consumed on Friday’s as an act of this mourning period since meat is forbidden (except on Sunday’s). Typically, one is also asked to sacrifice something else too, such as not eating something we enjoy and substitute it for something else. One may, as Pope Francis recently suggested, we give up bad attitudes and start living with good attitudes, such as having compassion and forgiveness.
I hope this article helped you understand Lent. I will become Roman Catholic on March 31st during the Easter Vigil this year, but before that I must go through the period of Lent.