Ash Wednesday marks the formal beginning of Lent for the Catholic population, a period of exactly 40 days that begins on March 2 in 2022 and will end this year on April 14, Holy Thursday., at the time the mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. With Fat Thursday and Carnival now forgotten, it’s time to begin a period of recollection and deprivation, especially focused on fasting and abstinence.
In the ceremony of the imposition of ashes (traditionally preserved after the burning of the palms on Palm Sunday of the previous year) the sign of the cross is made on the forehead, with two aspirations pronounced by the priest: “Dust you are and to dust you will return” and “Convert and believe in the gospel”. The idea has also been around the world of music, with such famous songs as David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’ or Kansas’ ‘Dust in the Wind’. Both phrases recall how fleeting and volatile earthly life is and how futile it is to cling to material goods or pressing concerns while neglecting spiritual nourishment. It is also a time of sacrifice, to honor the memory of Jesus Christ and recognize everything he did for his people in those three years of public life.
The custom of imposing ashes has its roots in Judaism; In this religion, this symbology was literally used to expunge sins, and they were also covered with ashes to prepare for an important festival in the annual calendar. The Catholics adopted the custom, which initially also had its initiatory nuance at the time of public conversion. As of the year 384 BC, as the catholic.net website explains, “Lent acquired a penitential meaning for all Christians.” The imposition of ash as we know it is now a millennium old, since Rome formally adopted it from the eleventh century. During Lent believers are asked to fast and refrain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and all subsequent Fridays until Easter Sunday.
The idea of fasting is to limit food intake to one daily, and it is indicated for people of adult age; From the age of 60, Catholics who carry it out are technically freed from this practice, always voluntarily. Withdrawal usually begins after the age of 14 in this group, although in the family environment it is not surprising that it is done from before and even after 60. However, it is good to point out that the idea of this practice is to ask forgiveness for the sins committed and make a sacrifice, as well that the seafood platter on Fridays would not conceptually fit into this idea.