JERUSALEM – On February 22nd, 2023, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, celebrated Ash Wednesday during a Eucharistic Mass held at the Pro-Cathedral of the Patriarchate.
Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, charity, and repentance. Celebrated six weeks and half before Easter, the Mass was concelebrated by Mgr William Shomali, General Vicar, Mgr Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, bishop emeritus, Fr. Piotr Zelasko, Patriarchal Vicar for the Saint James Vicariate, and several priests of the Latin Patriarchate, as well as seminarians, who served at the altar. The assembly was made up of Latin Patriarchate Staff members, CCAO member organizations, and the faithful of Jerusalem.
During Mass, the ash of palm trees from last year’s Palm’s Sunday celebration is placed on the faithful’s head. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” are the words uttered by the Patriarch, and Mgr Shomali, as they marked the believers with ash, in a shape of a cross. This act is part of the Church’s tradition taken from both the Old and New Testament. The ash acts as a reminder of one’s origin, and the sign of the cross as a reminder of Christ’s words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
“During this period, Jerusalem is full of prayers, and liturgies, which preserve the Christian character of Jerusalem. But we do not need to show anything in front of anybody, as we ought to pray and fast in secret. We must put aside everything but Him,” said Mgr Pierbattista, in his homily. “God created us from dust. Its only by His power and grace that we are alive, not by our own effort. This, reminds us that we are sinful in nature and need to reflect on our ways by praying, fasting, and offering charitable acts. We should not only repent in our hearts, but also through receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. He concluded by asking the Holy spirit, who led Jesus to the desert, to guide us during this Lenten season.