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Jesus’ journey to be traced at St. Gall

by Gail Davenport

Ash Wednesday marks the onset of Lent on Feb. 28. During St. Gall’s three Masses, which will be held at 7 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m., each member of the faithful will be challenged to walk the path of Jesus during the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence leading up to Holy Thursday and the Tritium: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

In keeping with St. Gall’s theme during Lent, “Come Follow Me,” each member of the congregation will be given a parchment map of Jesus’ journey through the desert on which they will chart their own personal spiritual journey that will unfold week-by-week during Lent, through the use of prayer, fasting, scripture and reflective questions, ultimately revealing their own personal insights.

Ash Wednesday is so named because on that day in the Catholic church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross, as has been the custom since the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).

Ashes that have been blessed have been used in God’s rituals since the time of Moses as a sign of humility and mortality and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin (Numbers 19:9-10, 17). The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has been taken from the Old Testament Biblical custom of ashes being a symbol of mourning and penance. In Biblical times, the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes and put dust and ashes on one’s head.

Ashes also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. Receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin was a practice of the Anglo-Saxon church in the 10th century and was made universal throughout the Western church at the Synod of Benevento in 1091. Thus, when a priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with ashes, he says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

In addition to the Ash Wednesday services, St. Gall invites its Carson Valley neighbors to attend the “Stations of the Cross” and soup suppers, which will be held on all Wednesdays during Lent, starting March 7 at 6 p.m. During the “Stations of the Cross,” members of the St. Gall community re-enact Jesus’ final journey to the Cross, and it is a time of prayer and reflection, followed by the sharing of soup, bread, cheese and wine.