By Leslie Ann Aquino
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the changes in some church practices due to the coronavirus disease (COVID 19) should not sidetrack the faithful from the real meaning of Lent.
“Let us not be side-tracked by these discussions from the real meaning of the season of Lent, which is a season of grace and conversion,” he said in a statement. “Let us go to the core meaning of our rites rather than be confused by changed external practices.”
One of the changes in church practices this Lent cited by the prelate is the imposition of ash on Ash Wednesday, which will now be sprinkled on the head of the faithful.
“In the Philippines we have been used to put the ashes on the forehead. But this is not the only way to do it, nor is it even the original way,” Pabillo said.
He said in the Bible and in many churches in the world, the ash is put on the top of the head, not on the forehead.
But more than where the ash is imposed and in what manner, Pabillo said the meaning is the same, saying the ash imposed on believers is a call to “humility and repentance.”
“Thus while the dust is imposed on us, whether on top of the head or on the forehead, we are reminded of our lowly origin. Humility and repentance are the essence, and these should not be lost in whatever form the ash is imposed on us,” he said.
Pabillo also reminded the faithful that Ash Wednesday is not just a one-time event as it ushers everyone to a season of renewal.
“We renew ourselves by self-control — this is the meaning of fasting and abstinence from meat that we do, by generosity — hence we are enjoined to be more generous to the poor by almsgiving, and by prayer. These three are related to each other. By saying no to ourselves (penance), we are able to say yes to others (almsgiving) and to God (prayer),” Pabillo said.
“Let us not be side-tracked by the coronavirus in living the season of grace this Lent,” he added.
Catholics will usher in the start of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 26.