Catholic faithful across the world marked the beginning of Lent period on Wednesday 10th February 2016.
There will be a celebration of Ash Wednesday which will usher in the forty days of lent that is observed before celebrating the Easter Holiday.
During this period, the Catholics are expected to repent their sins and do according to God’s will.
The name became known because of the phrase, ‘lets us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,’ used during a procession that occurred on that day.
The Catholics are encouraged to start this season with a simple prayer and a good confession in order to begin their spiritual journey.
Speaking to West Fm Rev Fr Chrispinus Wekhanya Marofu of Christ the King Cathedral in Bungoma said Lent season is very helpful to Catholics as it helps them strengthen their faith in Christ.
“During this season, the Catholics should be committed to prayer, fasting and also help the needy in society. They should cease from excesses until Easter Sunday. This is a symbol that they are taking part in the suffering and temptations of Jesus Christ,’’ he said.
On the Ash Wednesday believers apply ash on the forehead with the symbol of the cross, hence the word ‘ash’.
The ash is not applied in any other part of the body because it’s the head that has knowledge, that you are human being who understands the teachings of Christ and that you have the conscience to repent when you have done wrong.
The application of the ash symbolizes that humans came from dust and to dust they will return, the humans’ sinfulness, and the need for penance. Masses are held on this day, with the addition of distribution of ashes, which takes place after the homily.
The ashes that are used are obtained from burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter that commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
The palms are blessed with holy water and then sit in burning incense to give them a scent.
The people who administer this ash are the Priests, Deacons, and Eucharist Ministers.
During this Lent period, there is the carrying of the cross by believers around the church. This is to follow Jesus’ example, the way He carried the cross to Golgotha and the difficulty he underwent.
The Ash Wednesday is the first day of the forty days of Lent and the fortieth day is the Palm Sunday.
From the palm Sunday there is the holy week, which has three important days.
These days include the Holy Thursday whereby the Catholics commemorate the last supper that Jesus had with His disciples. This is followed by Good Friday where they commemorate the crucifixion of Christ. There is then Holy Saturday followed by the Easter Sunday.
In every Lent period, a theme is discussed. The theme is produced by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), which works in conjunction with Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. They have different topics that want the church to talk about.
In Christ the King Cathedral Parish, the Parish Priest Rev Fr Christopher Wanyonyi organized more than five Mass Services where the Catholic faithful will have ash applied on their foreheads.
From Friday 12th February 2016 and the subsequent Fridays until Good Friday, Catholic faithful will have processions carrying the cross around their Churches remembering what Jesus went through before his crucifixion.
Bishop Norman King`oo Wambua of Bungoma Catholic Diocese will officially launch the Lenten Campaign in the whole diocese bringing together all the 31 Parishes in the Diocese.
The launch will take place at Christ the King Cathedral on Saturday 13th February 2016.
During Lent Period, Church Services mood changes drastically with only songs depicting sorrow being sung.
Mentioning of words such as Halleluyah, Utukufu during Church Services will cease completely during Lent Period.
In fact some Catholics choose to stay away from Church Services because this is the time those services appear to be very dull.
During Lent, the Clergy puts on Purple or Violet Colours which they say signify repentance.
However, Rev Fr Martin Wanyonyi of Amukura Parish argues that, Lent is the best time for Christians to interrogate themselves, repent, assist the needy in society, dedicate their lives and everything to God
“Lent is the best period for Christians to look at their lives, repent, forgive and avoid all the world pleasures,” explained Fr Wanyonyi.
This year’s Lent Period will run up to the fourth week of March with Catholic faithful marking Holy Thursday on 24th March 2016, Good Friday on 25th March 2016 and Easter Sunday.
According to Catholic Scholars, Catholic faithful started marking Lent in A.D. 325 during the Council of Nicea. That was during reign of Emperor Constantine and it came after the Emperor recognized the Catholic Church as the official Roman Empire`s State Religion.
Bungoma Diocese Anglican Bishop George Mechumo says, Lent period is largely linked to Apostle Simon Peter whom the Universal Catholic Church believes he was the first Catholic Pope.
Lent that is also called is Tessarakosti in Greek and Quadragesima in Latin takes forty days according to the Roman calendar.
Catholic Scholars argue that forty days has vast relationships in both the Old and New Testament in the bible.
For instance in the Old Testament in Genesis 7: 4 to 18, during Noah`s time, there was heavy rainfall for forty days and nights and after the rain, floods were experienced for forty days and nights.
On their way to the Promised Land, Israelites went through hardships for forty years before stepping in Canaan.
The Bible says Moses also fasted two times for fort days and nights on Mt Sinai.
Again in the Old Testament after Elijah killing Baal`s Prophets, he traveled for forty days and nights without food while fleeing.
In the New Testament, Jesus was in Wilderness for forty days and nights. These are just but a few examples that Catholic Scholars base on to justify Lent in the Roman Catholic Church.
However there questions as to why it took quite some time before the Universal Catholic Church started marking the period.