Ash Wednesday - First Day of Lent and a Season of Fasting, Penance and Prayer

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
12 Feb 2016

Ash Wednesday this week saw the start of Lent with people throughout the Archdiocese receiving  the ashes marked on their forehead in the shape of a cross.

Traditionally 46 days before Easter Sunday, Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting.

The ashes symbolise the dust from which God made us - "Remember you are dust and from dust you shall return".

This is also a time of penance, prayer, reflection and fasting in preparation for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Some people may fast while others give up something they would normally enjoy - sweets, meat, television, cigarettes or alcohol for example.

The blessed palms used in Palm Sunday from the previous year, are burnt to provide the ashes.

Pope Francis said of Lent this year;" In this Jubilee of Mercy the season of Lent is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God's words and practising the works of mercy."

At St Mary's Cathedral on Ash Wednesday Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady distributed the Ashes to a group from Caritas Australia who also launched their annual Project Compassion. It is their 50th annual fundraising appeal. This year Caritas  is hosting the National Programs Co-ordinator of the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi, Martin Mazinga, who will be visiting parishes to talk about the life-changing work Caritas undertakes in his home country with the help of Australians and project Compassion.

Missing however from St Mary's Cathedral on Wednesday was Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP. The Archbishop is recovering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome and is undergoing intensive rehabilitation  to assist his recovery from the auto-immune condition.

However Archbishop Anthony received the Ashes at his rehabilitation centre and also sent a special message to people of the Archdiocese.