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Christians mark Ash Wednesday as start of Lent

POSTED: February 26, 2009 12:59 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

The Rev. Doug Dailey conducts a worship service on Ash Wednesday at Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville.

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Although not everyone knows exactly what it means to observe Lent, most people understand that most followers choose to give up something until the season is over.

Lent, the 40 days before Easter, officially began Wednesday on Ash Wednesday. As a way to mark the beginning of the period, many participants chose to give up a portion of their lunch break to attend area Ash Wednesday services.

"You could say that the season of Lent begins with one word: Remember," said the Rev. Doug Dailey, to those gathered at the Grace Episcopal Church afternoon Ash Wednesday services.

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return."

During Ash Wednesday services, the service leader marks a cross upon the forehead of attendees with ashes. For Ash Wednesday observers, the ashes represent man’s mortality, repentance of sins and a commitment to live a renewed life.

"It is on Ash Wednesday that we return to where we ought to be," Dailey said. "It reminds us of our common end. It is important to remember our mortality and what God promised us and the importance of his promise that new life is ours."

During Lent, some Christians "fast" or forego certain worldly pleasures or foods. Some take on various projects like raising money for a charity, volunteering or helping a neighbor.

"Every year for Lent, I usually give up chocolate — I absolutely love chocolate," said Sandra White, a 37-year-old manager of a Gainesville fast food restaurant. "But this year, I’m going to add a service piece to my observance. I’m going to volunteer at my daughter’s school. I’m sure the teachers would appreciate having an extra hand."

The period of fasting during Lent is symbolic and mimics the fast the Bible says Jesus took for 40 days in the wilderness.

During Lent, individuals are encouraged to meditate, pray and use self-examination to determine how they can lead more purposeful, Christ-like lives.

"Remember fasting for the good of your body, prayer for the good of your soul and giving for the good of your neighbor," Dailey reminded churchgoers.



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