St Vincent de Paul
The Parish of St Vincent de Paul is located in East Kilbride and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Motherwell.
Season of Lent
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
Why 40 days?
40 is a significant number in Jewish-Christian scripture:
• In Genesis, the flood which destroyed the earth was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
• The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God.
• Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the ten commandments on Mount Sinai.
• Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.
Whereas Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion by Rome.
It is common these days for believers to surrender a particular vice such as favourite foods or smoking. Whatever the sacrifice it is a reflection of Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and a test of self-discipline.
Why is it called Lent?
Lent is an old English word meaning ‘lengthen’. Lent is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer.
Purple is the symbolic colour used in churches throughout Lent, for drapes and altar frontals.
Purple is used for two reasons: firstly because it is associated with mourning and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, and secondly because purple is the colour associated with royalty, and celebrates Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty.
The last week of Lent is called Holy Week.
Ash Wednesday (The first day of Lent)
Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. Our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to 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.
Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year’s palm Sunday Mass. It is not required that a person wear the ashes for the rest of the day, and they may be washed off after Mass. However, many people keep the ashes as a reminder until the evening.
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.
It is important to remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of penitential prayer and fasting. Small children, the elderly and sick are exempt from this observance.