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Ash Wednesday and St. Valentine’s Day: A Providential Confluence

This year, Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent fall on St. Valentine’s Day. While perhaps a disappointment to the various lovebirds among us, the intersection of the two holy days provides a providential opportunity for us all to remember the purpose of Lent, the nature of love, and the person and witness of St. Valentine, bishop and martyr.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (540).

In his Ash Wednesday homily in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI explains Our Lord’s time in the desert: “For him, that long period of silence and fasting was a complete abandonment of himself to the Father and to his plan of love. The time was a ‘baptism’ in itself, that is, an ‘immersion’ in God’s will and in this sense a foretaste of the Passion and of the Cross. … It meant engaging in battle with [the Tempter], with nothing but the weapon of boundless faith to challenge him, in the omnipotent love of the Father.”

We are called every Lent, therefore, to imitate the Lord’s own faith, filial boldness and love. We are called to the spiritual desert, to a living out of the baptismal graces that lead us from death to life in Jesus Christ.

It’s for this reason that Lent begins with the ancient Christian practice of being marked with ashes. The ashes do not only symbolize our physical death at the end of our life in this world, but also our spiritual death to pride, vanity and self-love. As we will hear in the only New Testament letter proclaimed at the Great Easter Vigil, St. Paul will exhort us:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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