Believers in Christ around the world observe these days as special days of prayers and charity.health and fitness Updated: Feb 25, 2004 18:30 IST
Christians all over the world begin today — Ash Wednesday — what is known as the Lenten season.
This special liturgical season lasts for nearly 45 days and ends with Easter which this year will fall on April 11. Both, Ash Wednesday and Easter, unlike Christmas, do not fall on a fixed date, but depend on the specific day of the week.
Thus believers in Christ around the world observe these days as special days of prayers, acts of charity, mortifications and some people even take to fasting.
Ash plays an important role on this Wednesday, as the priest applies ash on the forehead of each person coming to the Church, repeating the formula, 'Thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return'.
In his sermon he reminds people that while observing the precepts of this season, they must focus on the spirit of the season rather than external performance and appearances. The priest uses the words of Lord Jesus himself as recorded in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward”.
"But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be a secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men".
"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting but to your Father who is in a secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."