MILLIONS of Catholics on Wednesday trooped to various churches nationwide to have their forehead marked with ashes as a sign of renewal of their baptismal vows as the whole Christendom observed Ash Wednesday, the start of the 40-day Lenten season.
The cross on the foreheads of the faithful symbolizes penitential system that can be traced to the first century of Christianity.
According to the Church, the ritual is associated with repentance and serves as a reaffirmation of Catholics to be Christ-like and to seek forgiveness for their sins.
Leaves used in last year’s celebration of Palm Sunday were burned into ashes, which were used in Wednesday’s ritual.
While making the sign of the cross on the foreheads of Catholics, the priest intoned: “Dust you are and to dust you are returned.”
Catholics observe fasting and abstinence during Holy Week, particularly on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.
Exempted from fasting are those below 18 years old, senior citizens and the sick.
During Wednesday’s celebration, the Holy Family Parish Church in Quezon City’s Roxas District gave the faithful a one-of-a-kind spiritual experience in a traditional Latin Mass with its emphasis on the “sense of the sacred” and the Holy Father’s call for a “formation of the heart.”
Miguel Madarang, master of liturgical ceremonies of Societas Ecclesia dei Sancti Joseph-Una Voce Philippines, said the Latin Mass was in response to the Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2015 wherein the Holy Father reiterated the need for the Catholic faithful to “engage in a formation of the heart.”
“Anyone who wishes to be merciful must have a strong and steadfast heart, closed to the tempter but open to God. A heart which lets itself be pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters. And, ultimately, a poor heart, one which realizes its own poverty and gives itself freely for others,” Francis said.
Another Church group, the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), took the observance of the Lenten season as an opportunity to urge Catholics worldwide to make a united stand on climate change.
“We encourage Catholics around the world to unite, pray and fast in solidarity with those who are most affected by the changing global climate,” it said.