Today is Ash Wednesday. Today is a public day of fasting and abstinence that we do as the Church. Why do we fast? Here’s a reflection by Jeremy Priest, Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Lansing:
“On this day, Ash Wednesday, we say publicly, not just as individuals but as the Church, that we are sinners and in need of God's mercy. This is a way of publicly demonstrating to ourselves and to others that we are ‘a people who are not pure in heart, who do not love God with all we have, who still equivocate between merely human aspirations and kingdom goals. The purpose of Lent is to let that public confession and outward humiliation work from the outside in, toward genuine repentance that receives the forgiveness of sins’."
“The Ceremonial of Bishops says it this way: ‘On Ash Wednesday, a universal day of fast, ashes are distributed...In this sign [of ashes] we outwardly profess our guilt before God and thereby, prompted by the hope that the Lord is kind and compassionate...express our desire for inward conversion.’ On Ash Wednesday we are, as the Church, observing a day of fasting and abstinence that is particularly public in character.”
“The inward penance that Jesus calls us to do for his or her Lenten penance is somewhat more private in character—and by all means, done in secret. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the days of Lent we are asked to do penance together (this includes the abstinence we do on the Fridays of Lent as well). The other days of Lent are free for us to choose your own path of preparing for the Lord's Resurrection (using the three-fold tools of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving). That said, Ash Wednesday is a day of public fasting and abstinence that is to be a sign to the world of the ‘reason for the hope that is in us’."