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    » 02/21/2007, 00.00

    VATICAN

    Ash Wednesday: charity, prayer and penance as ‘weapons’ against evil, says Pope



    In the ceremony marking the beginning of Lent, Benedict XVI emphasises the double meaning of the ritual, namely as an invitation to inner change, to conversion and penance, and as a reference to the precariousness of human existence. Fasting has no physical or aesthetic reasons; its goal is to educate people to adopt those “beneficial renunciatory practices that free the believer from the slavery of his own self.”

    Rome (AsiaNews) – The imposition of ashes, which marked Benedict XVI’s day, also marks the beginning of Lent and carries a double meaning, namely an invitation to inner change, to conversion and penance, and a reference to the precariousness of human existence. The Pope today highlighted the meaning of the Ash Wednesday ceremony he led in Rome’s Santa Sabina Basilica, first traditional ‘Lent Station’ in which the bishop of Rome also participates.

    A long procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, men religious and the faithful lined up under a grey afternoon sky, sprinkled with rain, in a ceremony that has repeated since ancient times. Led by the Pope the procession made its way from the Sant’Anselmo Benedictine Church to Santa Sabina. Here Mgr Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of Santa Sabina, imposed the ashes on Benedict XVI, who then did the same to others present.

    In his homily the Pope said that “with the penitential procession we have begun the austere period of Lent. Introducing ourselves in the Eucharistic celebration we have prayed that the Lord may help the Christian people to ‘begin a journey towards true conversion so as to victoriously confront with the weapons of penance the fight against the spirit of evil’ (Opening Prayer). In receiving the ashes on the forehead, we shall listen again to a clear invitation to convert that can be expressed in a dual formula: ‘Convert and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that we come from dust and that we return to dust’.”

    Benedict XVI then emphasised that “today’s liturgy and its gestures form an ensemble that anticipates the whole Lenten period,” a time “to become reconciled with God in Jesus Christ.”

    “For the liturgy of Ash Wednesday,” he said, “a heartfelt conversion to God is the fundamental trait aspect of the time of Lent. It is the quite suggestive reference that comes to us from the traditional ritual of the imposition of the ashes. This ritual has a double meaning. The first refers to an inner change, to conversion and penance, whilst the second refers to the precariousness of human existence easily seen in the two expressions that accompany the gesture.”

    Now “we have 40 days to deepen this extraordinary ascetic and spiritual experience.” Jesus himself tells us what are “the useful instruments to achieve a true inner and communal renewal: charity (alms), prayer and penance (fasting). These are three fundamental practices that are also dear to the Jewish tradition because they contribute to the man’s purification before God (cf Mt 6, 1-6.16-18). Such external gestures, which must be performed to please God and not to get men’s approval and consensus, are acceptable to Him if they express the heart’s determination to serve Him only in simplicity and generosity.”

    “Fasting, which the Church invites us to do during this demanding time, is certainly not motivated by physical or aesthetic reasons. It stems man’s need to purify himself from within and detoxify himself from sin and evil. It teaches him to accept the beneficial renunciatory practices that free the believer from the slavery of his own self. It makes him listen more attentively to God and more available to Him and to serve his brothers. For this reason fasting and other Lenten practices are seen in the Christian tradition as spiritual ‘weapons’ in the fight against evil, wicked passions and vices.”

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    See also

    06/02/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: Lent,"an occasion to make our hope more vibrant and firm"
    Nothing nourishes hope better than prayer, "the engine of the world", "because nothing expresses the reality of God in our lives better than prayer with faith". But suffering also moves in the same direction, because it opens the way to participating in the consolation of God.

    01/03/2006 VATICAN
    The Pope: Lent is a time to oppose goodness to evil, the truth to lies and love to hatred
    In celebrating Ash Wednesday mass, Benedict XVI talks about the struggle against evil and urges the faithful to practice charity.

    17/02/2010 VATICAN
    Personal and communal conversion, only path to build fairer societies, Pope says
    As he celebrated Ash Wednesday, Benedict XVI said that following “Christ in the desert is the necessary condition to partake in his Pascha”. Ashes remind us that man is “dust, loved by God,” and that “first act of justice is to recognise our own wickedness, rooted in the heart, the centre of the human person.”

    09/03/2011 VATICAN
    Lent, a testing time for genuine conversion, a joyous journey towards Easter, says Pope
    Benedict XVI celebrated Ash Wednesday today, calling on the faithful to fast, pray and give alms, not for a “desire to be respected and admired for the good deed,” but in order to “rediscover these three works of piety, living them in a deeper way, not for our own love, but for the love of God.”

    17/02/2010 VATICAN
    Pope: Lent, a call to "turn our lives around"
    During his general audience, Benedict XVI illustrates the meaning of the terms used during the rite of the Ashes: "Repent and believe the Gospel" and "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." The first invites us to follow "the high standards of Christian life", the second recalls our fragility, but also our liberation from death, gifted us by Jesus.



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