March 1 is Ash Wednesday. Lent begins for the Latin Church. The Eastern Churches already begin fasting, abstaining from meat and dairy products, during their Triodion (Pre-Lent). You should by now have planned out your Lenten discipline.

Consult what your bishops wrote in 1985: liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Penance/ Abstinence.pdf. They don’t set the bar very high, so consider doing a bit more. Choose something more challenging than giving up chocolate … again. Don’t go wobbly. Be traditional!

Each year, Holy Church conforms herself to her dying and rising Lord. Traditionally during Lent the Church strips our liturgy of its ornaments, such as flowers and music. She liturgically fasts – nay, rather dies – throughout Lent. Increasing deprivation characterises Lent’s liturgical worship so that our Easter celebration is that much sweeter, the flowers more florid, the music more tuneful and the white even brighter.

Ancient liturgical customs, usually preserved where the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is enjoyed, can help us recover a deeper observance of Lent. The “Alleluia” is suppressed from Septuagesima onward. On Passion Sunday (the Sunday before Palm Sunday) statues and images are draped, taken from sight. During the Triduum, which for St Leo the Great (d 461) is totum paschale sacramentum (the “whole paschal sacramental mystery”), bells fall silent on Holy Thursday and there is no Mass on Good Friday, though we have Communion. On Saturday she remains still in liturgical death, without even Communion. At the Easter Vigil everything returns tenfold with her resurrection.

Speaking of fasting, perhaps your own choices for Lent might include gradually increased deprivation along with concrete good works of mercy.

To get us into the mood, let’s see one of the traditional prayers for the blessing of ashes which will be imposed upon us:

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