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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Ash Wednesday 2024



Photo ID 268112663 © Vetre Antanaviciute-meskauskiene | Dreamstime.com

This year (2024) Ash Wednesday (a variable date) which is the beginning of Lent in western Catholic and other denominational churches happens to occur on Valentine's Day (always February 14) in the U.S.  This coinciding of days, results from a somewhat complex astronomical and liturgical formula for determining when Easter occurs. According to Wikipedia:

"Ash Wednesday occurs on a different date each year. It is always 46 days before Easter. Since Easter itself is a movable feast, the date of Ash Wednesday changes accordingly. The calculation is based on the Sunday following the first full moon that occurs on or after the March equinox, which is always March 21 in the Christian Church calendars. It can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10"

Valentine Day and Ash Wednesday rarely coincide.  According to my findings on-line, in the 20th Century this coincidence occurred in 1923, 1934 and 1945.  In the 21st century, these dates coincided on 2018, and will again this year in 2024 and will again in 2029.  Then not again for a whopping 141 years into the 22nd century in the year 2170 will Ash Wednesday be on Valentine's Day February 14!!  I confirmed these coinciding dates using a free calculator at "had2know.org" under the category "Society" on the Home Page  using the calculator "Ash Wednesday Date Calculator"

The copyrighted photo at the beginning of this post, (which I purchased from "dreamstime.com" for publication in this Blog), contains a a heart-shaped dish containing ashes, usually from the remains of burned palm branches from the Palm Sunday of the previous year.   The ashes show an inscribed cross and are used for tracing a cross on the foreheads of parishioners on "Ash Wednesday" at the beginning of Lent.  The heart-shaped dish reminds us of the unconditional love of Christ for all humanity but also of the many forms of love expressed on this Valentine's-Ash Wednesday.

The ashes symbolize "With sweat on your brow shall you eat your bread, until you return to the soil, as you were taken from it,. For dust you are and to dust you shall return." from Genesis 3:19*.   In the Catholic church, Ash Wednesday takes precedent over Valentine's Day and all the fasting and abstinence regulations of Lent are in effect.  

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org) recommends the following for Lenton Observation: 

"Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

Members of the Eastern Catholic Churches are to observe the particular law of their own sui iuris Church."

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection."

Holy Week observances toward the end of Lent are:  

Palm Sunday, March 24, 2024
Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024
Good Friday, March 29, 2024 
Easter Sunday March 31, 2024.

*Note: Scripture passage is from the  Jerusalem Bible copyright 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York,

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