SEASON OF SACRIFICE. A nun sprinkles blessed ash on the head of a person instead of imposing markings on the forehead at the Baclaran Church on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17, 2021). Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season for the Catholics around the world. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – Considered as one of the most important holy days in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday serves as a reminder for the Catholic faithful that life came from dust and to dust, it will return.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, this year's observance took a turn as instead of the usual placing of ash marking in the shape of a cross on one's forehead, priests and nuns sprinkle blessed ash on the head of a person.

However, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the blessed ash may still be imposed on one’s forehead using a cotton ball.

Fr. Mandy Malijan, parish priest of the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, said with the imposition of the blessed ash, everyone is reminded that life is short.

Pinapaalala natin sa mga mananampalataya na tayo ay babalik din sa alabok, nagmula tayo sa alabok at babalik din tayo sa alabok. Ito rin yung panawagan ng simbahan na magbagong buhay at sa mabuting balita sumampalataya (We are reminding our faithful that we came from dust and to dust we shall return. The Church is also calling on everyone to turn their back on their sins and strengthen their faith),” Malijan said in an interview.

He added that they are encouraging Catholics from 18 to 60 years old to prepare themselves for the Lenten season through fasting, almsgiving, and abstinence.

He said these are the practices being done to cleanse oneself and prepare for the paschal mystery for 40 days or six weeks before the Paschal Triduum.

Meanwhile, because not everyone can already go out to physically attend the holy mass, Malijan said they are giving out blessed ashes in small pouches for free.

Yung mga gustong humingi na hindi makapunta ng simbahan, the head of the family ang siyang magsasagawa nito, so sila na lang magbubudbod sa kani kanilang mga pamilya (Those who are unable to go to the church, the head of the family should be the one to do this, they will sprinkle these on the head of their family members) with the word “repent and believe in the gospel,” he said.

However, blessed ash should not be sold and are not magical, and may not be used as amulets.

For those who cannot go to the church, he said they can do their own ashes using dried leaves if dried palms are not available.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a day before Ash Wednesday, the Quiapo Church burned dried palms that will be used for the occasion.

Monsignor Hernando Coronel, rector of the Quiapo Church, said it is important that people understand the essence of this activity.

Ang tawag din dito ay Shrove Tuesday, ano yung shrove? Mula sa absolve yung pinapatawad tayo sa ating mga kasalanan kaya magmuni muni tayo na tayo’y makasalanan kaya kailangan natin ng kaligtasan mula sa Diyos (This is also called Shrove Tuesday. What is Shrove? It comes from absolving, we are forgiven of our sins that is why we should meditate that we are sinners and we need God to free us from our sins),” Coronel said.

He added that the special petition for this year is for the Covid-19 pandemic to end.

For some Catholics, the Covid-19 pandemic did not dampen their faith.

For Malou Tan, prayer is always the key.

Pwede naman tayo magdasal every now and then kaya lang talaga dapat sincerity ang kailangan natin dun and faith talaga kung ano man yung nangyayari sa atin ngayon, life must go on, move on (We can pray every now and then, we should only be sincere and have faith that whatever is happening now, life must go on, we have to move on),” she said.

Another Catholic, Violy Manabat said she believes that this pandemic will also come to pass.

“You still have the faith in your heart. Yung mga dumadating sa buhay ng tao naman lahat yan pagsubok lang di ba, so malalagpasan din natin to (These are all trials and we can overcome this) soon, in Jesus name,” Manabat said. (PNA)