LOS ANGELES (CNS) - 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.
The Rev. David Gallardo, pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon at the cathedral. The Mass will be streamed live on the cathedral's Facebook page, facebook.com/olacathedral.
Masses with distribution of ashes will also be 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 with distribution of ashes will be celebrated at 3 p.m.
Those attending the morning or noon Masses will receive a 90-minute parking validation.
“Lent is a time of purification, spiritual growth and deepening our conversion in Christ,” Archbishop José H. Gomez wrote in his annual Lenten message. “The life of virtue is also about self-examination and discipline, about mastering our appetites and cultivating good habits that order our lives in the image of Jesus.”
Ashes will be imposed on pedestrians by the deans of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in South Los Angeles, continuing a tradition begun five years ago to make it convenient for people who wish to recognize Ash Wednesday but who may not wish to attend a church service.
Ashes will be available from 8 a.m.-noon and 1-2 p.m. on the plaza in front of the church at 514 W. Adams Blvd. More than 300 people stopped to receive a blessing and ashes last year, according to the Rev. Mark Kowalewski, a co-dean of the cathedral.
In his Ash Wednesday message, President Donald Trump said, “We join in prayer with everyone observing this holy day and wish you a prayerful Lenten journey. May you grow closer to God in your faith during this blessed season.”