BY CONNIE CLARK
Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are on the same day this year, and you can blame the moon for that. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about Ash Wednesday first.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season that prepares us for Easter. We get ashes on our foreheads to remind us that we belong to God. Ashes are in the shape of a cross because we are saved from our sins by Jesus’ cross and resurrection.
During Lent, we step up our Christian practices of prayer, almsgiving (that means helping others), and fasting. Fasting is when we go without something to show that God is all we need. We might give up treats and give the money to the poor, for example.
Lent is 40 days long because that’s an important number for Christians. We remember that Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert to prepare for his ministry.
So why can’t we just move Ash Wednesday to Thursday? That’s where the moon comes in. It helps us figure out when Easter is. We don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection, but the Bible tells us it was on a Sunday, at the Jewish feast of Passover in springtime. Many years ago Church leaders decided that Easter Sunday would be celebrated every year on the first full moon after the first day of spring. This year, Easter falls on April 1 (and that’s no joke). Counting 40 days back from Holy Saturday (skipping Sundays because they’re not part of our Lenten fast), we arrive at Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 14 this year.
Ash Wednesday isn’t a day for parties and celebrating. In fact, many Christians abstain from (that means give up) meat. Healthy Catholic adults fast or eat smaller meals. So if you’re disappointed about missing some Valentine’s Day fun this year, remember that the rewards of loving God and others are better than the sweetest valentine candy.
Have a Heart Puzzle
Lent is all about love. You might even say it’s a valentine to God that lasts 40 days. Try the crossword to see how much you know about Lent. The answer key plus more activities for this feast are on the next page. Find this downloadable activity for children by clicking on this link: CAT.Feb2018_LivingtheLiturgicalYear
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2018.
Image credit: Photo Melon / Shutter Stock 520665796