Catholics yesterday heralded the start of Lent, the 40-day period leading to Easter Sunday, the day celebrating Jesus” resurrection.
“It”s a time of reconciliation and sacrifice to prepare us to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ,” said Anna Moreland, the education director at St. Mary”s Student Parish on Thompson Street.
Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of this period, and students commemorated it by going to mass for special services. Like Catholics did yesterday, Christians will partake in a partial fast on Fridays leading up to Easter they are not allowed to eat meat or snack in between meals.
During the special services, churchgoers” foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross in ashes. In the Catholic Church, the sign is the same used during baptism and is the sign of God”s ownership over his followers.
“The ashes are to remind us that we come from ashes and we will return to ashes, so they are a sign of humility,” Moreland said.
In Catholic and most Christian faiths the Lent period, which hits its peak on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, represents the time Jesus spent in the desert, where he was forced to fast and resist Satan”s temptations.
As a result, Catholics are supposed to give up or take up something throughout Lent. Popular choices include sacrificing chocolate and meat or beginning to volunteer. But the options are limitless.
Some students chose to give up important parts of American and college life.
“I”m giving up TV for Lent,” said
Rackham graduate student Elsa Ariesanti, a member of the St. Thomas parish on the corner of Kingsley and North State streets, who said she usually watches television every day.
While many students and Catholics are not always successful at giving up their chosen item, Ariesanti said she didn”t think giving up TV would be impossible.
“I”ve done it before. I”ll probably miss my shows, but that”s okay,” she said. “I think I”m going to start to read my Bible more often.”
For Catholics participating in Lenten traditions, the period gives them one more reason to devote more time toward God and their faith.
“I”m excited about how Lent is starting,” said Engineering graduate student Danielle Merriam, who said that instead of giving something up, she is choosing to set aside a time every night for prayer. “I”m excited because as humans, we often want to do something that will get us closer to God but we often let daily life get it the way. Having Lent as a season helps us to focus on God.”
Near Eastern studies Prof. Gabriel Boccaccini said that, originally, only people who had been baptized and had sinned against the Church or left the Church and wanted to be readmitted participated in Lent ceremonies.
“This is something that developed, it is not something that has a historical background in Jesus itself,” he said. “It was a special ceremony, a special process, reserved to a few people who had publicly committed great sins and in order to be readmitted into the church, they served this penance.”
The Church gradually began supporting Lent as a celebration for every Catholic, not just sinners. Boccaccini said the Church decided that “in a certain way, everybody needs a period of penance.”