Christians throughout the Southland will observe Ash Wednesday today, beginning the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, self-denial and good works.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes of the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance.
A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown.
In the Roman Catholic church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.
Archbishop Jose Gomez will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon in English at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where Mass will be also celebrated in English at 6:15 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., and 5:15 p.m. and at 7 p.m. in Spanish. A bilingual Liturgy of the Word will be celebrated at 3 p.m.
In his Lenten address last week - prior to Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will resign at the end of the month - Gomez addressed the release of personnel files of priests accused of sexual misconduct, saying: "We need to be transformed once more by the person of Jesus Christ and to live our faith win new sincerity, new zeal, new purpose and new purity. We need a new desire to be his disciples."
In Culver City the following services are being held today:
St. Agustine's Catholic Church
12:10 p.m. - Bi-lingual Liturgy of the Word
5:30 p.m. - Mass in English
7:30 p.m. - Misa en (Español/Spanish)
Culver Palms United Methodist Church
7 p.m. - Ash Wednesday service
- City News Service contributed to this report.