Lent begins with Ash Wednesday services

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The season of penance and preparation Christians celebrate prior to Easter begins today with Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras is the celebration of excess and vices but Ash Wednesday marks the start of the 40-day period of Lent, a season of fasting, deep reflection and preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.

“We’re asked to fast, be more charitable to the poor and spend more time in prayer like Jesus did in the desert in Luke’s Gospel,” said the Rev. Joe Tonos of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

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Typically, observers give up things like junk food, candy or coffee for 40 days or give up things that are precious to them as a sign of penance, said the priest. However, Tonos believes that Lent is the time to give up something that you need out your life altogether.

“What they’re doing is depriving themselves, hopefully, of something that is toxic in their life and they can continue to be more free to worship God and do what Christ has asked them to do,” he said. “Whatever you give up for Lent is something that you need to give up, period. If you give up vaping, it shouldn’t be that you can’t wait for the 40 days to be over so you can vape again. You should emerge better than you were before.”

Tonos charged himself and his parish with being more charitable or proactive in their faith.

“I may add an extra prayer in the morning,” he said. “I may make extra effort to go visit the sick. I may donate blood. I try to come up with 12 labors of Lent like Hercules did 12 labors to get out of Hell.”

Usually, Tonos would do these 12 labors for an individual or their family but this year, Pope Francis has charged the church with keeping Ukraine in their hearts.

“Our pope has actually asked us to think about Ukraine and do acts of mercy and spiritual acts for Ukraine,” said Tonos.

If you are looking to observe Ash Wednesday, a good number of local churches are holding services.

  • St. John will hold two services to commemorate Ash Wednesday. One early morning service at 7 a.m. and one evening service at 5:30 p.m. St. John will not hold its regular 12:10 PM Wednesday service.
  • Oxford University United Methodist Church will also hold two services in observance of Ash Wednesday. Join OUUMC at 12 p.m. in the breezeway by Heartbreak Coffee on North Lamar or at 6 p.m. in OUUMC’s traditional sanctuary located at 424 South 10th Street.
  • St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is hosting three separate Ash Wednesday services throughout the day: one from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., another from 12 to 1 pm and the last service from 6 to 7 p.m. St. Peter’s is located 113 South 9th Street just off the Square.
  • Oxford First United Methodist Church located at 102 Dylan Avenue will host an Ash Wednesday Service at 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend  the service which will also include the Imposition of Ashes.
  • First Presbytarian Church of Oxford will hold an “Ashes to Go” event on Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the church sidewalk. Those who want to receive their ashes can drive up and receive them during this 30-minute window at 924 Van Buren Avenue in Oxford.
  • St. Andrews United Methodist Church located at 431 North 16th Street will hold its worship service at 6 p.m.