As it was two years ago, also this year, the Ash Wednesday ceremony which is the starting day of the ‘Great Fasting Period’ or Lenten period was held in İskenderun Catholic Church and led by the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti. This year, the Easter Sunday will be celebrated separately in the Orthodox and Catholic communities. Mgr Bizzeti blessed the congregation by pouring ashes into the heads of the faithful.
During the mass, Bishop Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti preached about the meaning of ashes. He said: “There are two meanings of ash spreading on the believers. The first one reminds us the Old Testament that God created the humankind through the ash or dust and at the same time the human body will become dust. The purpose of this ceremony is to help humankind to become humble. People, especially the rich and powerful, forget the humility and forget that we are responsible for a billion people who are hungry and needy. This ceremony helps us to become conscious of this.
As Pope Francis reminds ‘… the shroud does not have pockets, and you will not take anything when you die. The whole world is like a ‘dew drop’ before God. For this reason, it is good to have the right ‘fear of God’. And only God is eternal. The human race is similar to a tree and a flower that dries… ‘
The second meaning of the ash comes from the New Testament. It is the destiny of man. He comes from the earth and will turn to the earth. The fear of punishment, prepares the man to accept Jesus Christ. Although this is not enough… Because the man has to repent in a real sense. For this reason, the priest says that at the ash distribution: ‘Repent and believe in Gospel’, so believe in the Good News. This is the Good News: The Father God wants to love us and He does not use the crime against us as a weapon. In this case, Christians do not have to sit in the ash. For God is merciful and has ceased to punish us. For this reason, St. Paul strongly reminds us this: ‘Make Peace with God!’ God has decided to become our friend and ally. He wanted to make peace with us. It is up to us to accept this and embrace Him.
The ash ceremony wants to make us sure that we trust in God because we are saved by him and he loves us. He knows that we are unhappy because of our sins. He knows that we are in horror and that we believe that evil is invincible. But on the contrary, Jesus is the Prince of life and peace, and nothing and no one can beat him.”
With this ceremony, the Catholics of Iskenderun began their fasting for 40 days until Easter. The Church community will fast since the Ash Wednesday to the day od Christ Jesus’ crucifixion. Fasting on other days is at the initiative of the community! The 40-day fasting is held to remember the 40 days Jesus Christ spent in prayer and fasting in the desert before He started his service.