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Lent. “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced” Jn 19:37. What is Lent?. Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). Why forty?. In Latin, quadragesima which means forty.

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“They shall look on Him whom they have pierced”

Jn 19:37

What is lent
What is Lent?

Lent is the forty day period before Easter, excluding Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday).

Why forty
Why forty?

In Latin, quadragesima which means forty.

A Spanish derivation of this is cuaresma.

In Filipino, is known as kuwaresma.

Why forty1
Why forty?

The number forty is found frequently in scripture to signify either a time of penitential preparation, or a time of punishment and affliction sent from God.

The Old Testament is replete with examples of the use of forty:

  • God punished mankind by sending a flood over the earth that lasted forty days and forty nights (Gen 7:12);

  • the people of Ninevah repented with forty days of fasting when Jonah preached the destruction of Ninevah (Jonah 3:4);

  • Moses and the Hebrew people wandered in the desert for forty years (Num 14:34);

  • the Prophet Ezekiel had to lie on his right side for forty days as a figure of the siege that was to bring Jerusalem to destruction (Ez 4:6);

  • the Prophet Elijah fasted and prayed on Mount Horeb for forty days (1 Kings 19:8); and finally,

  • Moses fasted forty days and forty nights while on Mt. Sinai (Ex 34:28).

Why forty2
Why forty?

In the New Testament we find Our Lord fasting and praying for forty days and forty nights in the desert in preparation for the public ministry that would end in his redeeming death.

“By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.”

Catholic Catechism, #540

Why do we use ash
Why do we use ash?

In the Old Testament ashes were used as a sign of humility and mortality as well as sorrow and repentance for sin.

Biblical basis:

In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1).

Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6).

Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).

Jesus  made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).

Why do we use ash1
Why do we use ash?

Church Tradition:

The use of ashes is thought to have begun with Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century.

Receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin was a practice of the church by the 10th century.

The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins.

The ashes are from burnt palm. In some places the ashes are put on the forehead, in the sign of the cross, as a reminder of the anointing with oil in baptism. In other places, ashes are scattered on the top of the head.

What are we to do in this season
What are we to do in this season?

First, we are ask to perform 3 things:

  • Prayer

  • Fasting

  • Alms-giving

What are we to do in this season1
What are we to do in this season?

It is highly recommended that we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this season.

What are we to do in this season2
What are we to do in this season?

Secondly, we are called to share in the suffering of Christ through our fasting and abstinence. The Church requires us to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstinence every Friday of the season of Lent.

Abstinence means not eating any kind of meat and by-products, except eggs, milk and cheese. In modern times, we can abstain by refraining from engaging anything that is pleasurable to oneself.

Fasting, on the other hand, means eating one whole meal in a day, without any snacks in between.

What are we to do in this season3
What are we to do in this season?

Also, we can do the following Catholic practices during this season:

  • Way of the Cross

  • Open Retreat/ Recollection

  • Acts of Mercy (Corporal and Spiritual)

  • Bible reading

  • Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

  • Holy week procession

What are we to remember in this season
What are we to remember in this season?

As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received:

  • We mourn and do penance for our sins.

  • We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation.

  • We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ.

  • Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven.


Almighty and everlasting God,

you despise nothing you have made

and forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,

that we, worthily lamenting our sins

and acknowledging our brokenness,

may obtain of you, the God of all mercy,

perfect remission and forgiveness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.