Mar. 05, 2023 10:36 AM
Following this year’s Roman Catholic liturgical calendar for February, Ash Wednesday falls on the 22nd of February, 2023. This liturgical celebration marks the beginning of the Lenten season observed by the faithful of the Universal Church. According to the website, New Advent, ‘Lent’ comes from the Latin word “Quadragesima,” which means “forty days.” This time period refers to the forty days Jesus Christ fasted in the desert before his three years of public ministry, which ended with his crucifixion and resurrection on the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday, respectively.
In preparation for the solemn celebration of Ash Wednesday, Rev. Fr. Jonathan N. Mojica, Parochial Vicar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, had performed the rite of burning old blessed palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday into ashes on the 21st of February 2023. During this liturgical tradition, worshippers and parishioners took part by burning their old palm branches in the church’s furnace at the Plaza of San Juan Bautista. Dubbed the ‘Silab Sala‘ in the Philippines, this ceremony happens during Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding when the season of Lent commences. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the word ‘shrove’ comes from the past tense of the word “shrive,” meaning to be freed from sins through receiving the sacrament of reconciliation by confession and penance. Dated from the late Middle Ages to the present, this customary Pre-Lenten is a period of spiritual cleansing and discipline for Christians before entering the penitential season.
Aside from confessing sins to the faith community, the burning of the old palms to ashes shows that Lent is a time to clean up our hearts and souls, fix our mistakes and wrongdoings, and think about what we’ve done and how we feel about it. This forty-day period is not just encouraging us [faithfuls] to abide by the laws of fasting and abstinence. Moreover, this inculcates the virtues of sacrifice even in our desires and achievements, a charity for the poor, needy, and marginalized, and prayers to heal and bridge us back to the Lord. As emphasized in the homily of Rev. Fr. Rufino C. Sescon Jr., Rector and Parish Priest, those three aforementioned pillars make up what is being asked of us: to live a life of humility, simplicity, and solidarity. With our Nuestro Padre Hesus Nazareno, we are called to travel with Him to the Calvary of redemption and salvation humanity will embrace.
Meanwhile, with thirteen (13) masses, approximately 16,250 mass-goers inside the church, and 19,180 people on both the left and right sides of Quiapo Church (including the Plaza of San Juan Bautista), this demonstrates the spiritual significance of Ash Wednesday to us [Filipinos]. The imposition of ashes on our foreheads with the sign of the cross reminds us not only of our attached responsibility in our devotion during this season of Lent. In addition, it reminds us, albeit of our weaknesses and vulnerability, we are given the chance to renew and rebuild our relations with God evident in this timeless verse, ‘Repent and Believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). With God as the source of life, Ash Wednesday is and will make us remember that everything, even life is temporary. This is articulated in this verse ‘Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ (Ecclesiastes 3:20). May all of us have a blessed Ash Wednesday everyone!
-Kidanzac A. Tallada