This year, Ash Wednesday is celebrated on Wednesday, February 17. It is the beginning of Lent, a season of reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter, the most important event in history, Jesus' resurrection from the dead for our salvation. The season of Lent ends with Holy Thursday (April 1).
There are forty days in Lent. The number 40 reminds us of the 40 days of rain during the Great Flood, the 40 years that the Israelites wandered through the desert en-route to the Promised Land, and the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before his public ministry. It always symbolizes a time of preparation before an important event; in this case, that event is Easter.
The word 'Lent" shares the same root as the word 'lengthen' and means 'springtime'. Indeed, the days are lengthening at this time of year. Lent is the 'springtime' of the Church year, and it is a time for spring cleaning-not of our homes, but of our hearts and lives. It is a time for changing our sinful ways and turning back to God, His love and His saving grace.
Lent is characterized by the three disciplines of prayer: (communication with God), fasting (self-denial, self-control, simple living), and almsgiving (sharing what we have, our time, and our goods with those in need).