Pope explains the significance of Lent and Ash Wednesday
Dear Brothers and Sisters, ;
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. ; The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. ; ;
In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. ; It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. ; It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. ; ; ;
The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. ; ;
In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. ; For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter.
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Belgium, Norway, Canada and the United States. ; I offer a special welcome to the faithful of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on the occasion of their pilgrimage to the See of Peter. ; I greet the pilgrim group from the Diocese of Antwerp, and I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. ; With prayerful good wishes for a spiritually fruitful Lent, I invoke upon all of you God’s abundant blessings!