By Christina Hermoso
As Roman Catholics mark the First Sunday of Lent on Sunday, a Roman Catholic Church leader reminded the faithful to remain focused on the true meaning of Lent despite the changes in traditional Lenten activities that are being implemented by the Church as precautionary measures against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“There may be changes in some of the church practices that we observe, but let us not be side-tracked by these from the real meaning of the season of Lent which is a season of grace and conversion,” said Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo over Church-run Radio Veritas.
“Let us go to the core meaning of our rites rather than be confused by changed external practices,” he added.
To recall, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had advised churchgoers to refrain from holding hands while singing the “Ama Namin (The Lord’s Prayer)”, and to avoid shaking hands or kissing while greeting each other the sign of peace. The faithful are, likewise, advised to receive holy communion by hand. The water fonts found on church entrances will also remain empty for now.
On Ash Wednesday last February 26, the blessed ashes were sprinkled on the heads of the faithful in many parishes instead of the customary marking of the forehead with a cross.
Pabillo explained that “in the Bible and in many churches in the world, the ashes are put on the top of the head, not on the forehead. More than where the ash is imposed and in what manner, the meaning is the same. The ashes imposed on us is a call to humility and repentance,” he stressed.
On Good Friday and on the other days of the Holy Week, the CBCP also discourages the faithful from touching, wiping, and kissing the holy images inside the church.
Pabillo said other Lenten traditions that might be affected by some changes include community confessions (kumpisalang bayan) and the processions.
“Let us not be side-tracked by the corona virus in living the season of grace this Lent,” the bishop said.
For his part, Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos urged the faithful “to overcome the temptations in our life such as the temptation for material possessions, temptation for power, and the temptation for popularity.”
“Remember God is not after our titles and awards. He looks for purity of our hearts and sincerity of our actions. We should never forget that only God is absolute. Only God matters. All things are passing. Material possessions, power, and fame will not assure us of lasting happiness and security. God is our reward. God is the only answer to our needs. He is our only salvation,” Santos stressed.
Meanwhile, the confessional in all churches will be available for longer hours during Lent to give churchgoers more opportunity to avail of the Sacrament of Penance. The Church encourages the faithful to engage in more charity and missionary work in their local parishes, to receive Holy Communion often, and to support the Church’s Fast2Feed program, which encourages the faithful to donate the money that was saved from fasting to their parish to help feed malnourished children.
Also known as Quadragesima Sunday, which means 40th in Latin, the first Sunday of Lent signifies that there are exactly 40 days from today until Good Friday, which will be observed on April 10 this year. On all Sundays of Lent, it has become customary to dispense from fasting and abstinence as Sundays are considered a day of rejoicing, being the day when the Lord resurrected. Sundays are also not counted among the 40 days of Lent.