Fasting and Ashes

Today is the first day of Lent, February 26, 2020. This is the time we Christians take the Hand of our dear Jesus as He ventures off into the desert, to fast, pray, and fight temptations from the evil one, the flesh and worldly allurements.

Detail from “Temptation of Christ” (1872) by Vasily Surikov []

The prayer we say in the Liturgy of the Hours sums up the meaning of this holy season:

Let us pray.
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast we begin our Christian warfare, so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Why Ashes?

On a lighter note, this morning at Ash Wednesday mass our chaplain mentioned that in times past ashes were used for things like cleaning out the frying pan, pouring on the snow or ice where the tires of your automobile were stuck (causing traction), and in making lye soap. If you look online you’ll find it’s true, along with a few others:
–amending lawn and garden soil
–reduce or remove oil stains on asphalt, stone, and cement
–clean glass and metal

So, if you’re wondering, “why ashes?” and why the Israelites were often found to be sitting in sack cloth and ashes, (besides signs of humility and repentance) perhaps part of the reason is also symbolic. It is cleansing, it gives something the ability to get “unstuck”, it adds necessary ingredients to “bad soil” (our spiritual life needs self-denial in the mix, or we’ll become spiritual couch-potatoes!).


So, that’s ashes. You could say plenty more about the meaning it holds in our Catholic tradition. The richness of our Catholic Faith is way beyond this little post today.

Just a “small portion” on fasting…

Take a look at our noon meal today:

Right. Yum, yum, yum.

But, it is true. Denying the body an indulgence in food for a time is very powerful in the spiritual life. The Catholic Church requires us to fast only today and on Good Friday, and that means one full meal with two smaller ones not equal to the main meal. In our Carmel, we chose to take it down a tad by just eating this simple fare of dry tuna for dinner, and small breakfast and small evening meal, called collation. The rest of the season of Lent is also a time of the monastic fast which allows for a small breakfast, a normal noon meal and a very light collation at night (never snacks).

We pray we are faithful to these practices not for the exterior observance, but for the graces we need to truly repent and grow deeper in union with our Lord. When we realize and reflect that we are uniting ourselves to our Beloved Lord Jesus who is now hungering in the desert for love of you and me, we desire to BE with Him in this time. We don’t want to leave Him alone in the desert, do we?

Have a very blessed Lent. Know we pray for you!

Featured image top: Julian Fałat, Ash Wednesday / Public domain


Recent Posts