LOS ANGELES — Christians throughout the Southland will observe Ash Wednesday today, ushering in the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, discipline and good works.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of penance. A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross.
In the Roman Catholic church, individuals are told as the ashes are applied to their foreheads, “Turn from sin and live the Gospel.”
Catholics observe Ash Wednesday by fasting, abstaining from meat and repenting. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose H. Gomez will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The Mass will be streamed live on facebook.com/olacathedral.
Mass will be also celebrated at the cathedral in English at 6:15, 7 and 8 a.m. and 5:15 p.m., and at 7 p.m. in Spanish. A bilingual Liturgy of the Word will be celebrated at 3 p.m.
Ashes will be distributed during all services. There is a flat $9 parking fee at the cathedral today.
“Let us make this Lent a time for rediscovering God’s love for us,” Gomez said.
“We cannot even imagine how much God loves us. There will never be a day, never be an hour, when God gives up on us. There will never be a time when he stops forgiving us, so believe it.
“Believe in the mercy of God. He accepts that we are sinners, but he wants us to know -- that is not all we are. God wants us to know that we are his sons and daughters and he will do anything to save us, to show us love. To bring us home, to bring us back to him.”
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