12 February 2013

Uganda: Christians Begin Lent Tomorrow

During last Sunday's service, many Christians returned palm fronds that they took home on last year's Palm Sunday, so that they can be burned.

It is from these fronds that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday, tomorrow, are derived.

While Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, thousands of Christians will flock different churches today to start Lent, a 40-day period in preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

According to Father Fred Jjenga, the Director, Holy Cross Ministries, prayers will be held at different intervals to suit everyone's schedule. For example St Peter's Church in Nsambya will have an early morning service at 7am and another at 5pm. At Christ the King church and Lubaga Cathedral, mass will be held in the morning at 7am, at midday and also late in the evening.

In churches like St Gonzaga in Kireka and St Andrea Kaggwa in Kisaasi, there will only be one mass at 5pm. All Saints church at Nakasero will have prayers at 5:30pm, although not necessarily with ashes.

For Jjenga, this year believers have been tasked by Pope Benedict XVI to fight evils of corruption and domestic violence. Besides that, the day's readings are a reflection repentance and returning to God.

"In most offices today, it is Christians operating there, so we expect that when we put these ashes on them, they should focus on life in heaven and improve in areas of darkness like corruption," Jjenga said.

What happens on Ash Wednesday?

Fr Jjenga says there is usually mass to prepare the devotees for the holy ashes. These ashes are blessed by the priest and sprinkled with holy water. However, some churches mix these ashes with a small amount of water to that it sticks on the fore head.

The priest uses his thumb to place the ashes with the sign of the cross on foreheads as he says: "Remember, man came from dust, and to dust he shall return."

"These words are supposed to remind us of our sinfulness and our own mortality, thus the need to repent," he explained.

Ash Wednesday is also to enable Christians take stock of their spiritual lives.

For example one can set goals that they would love to meet before Easter and decide how we will achieve them, for example by going to daily mass and receiving the sacrament of Confession often.

Others fast during this period, depriving themselves of the things they love most, on top of avoiding meat dishes on Fridays, to help Christians share in the pain our Lord went through on Good Friday.

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