Ash Wednesday - The Beginning of Lent
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a 40-day liturgical period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. According to the Gospel, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert before he began his public ministry. Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is a sign of penitence and mortality. It’s a practice that dates back to the fifth century, and by the 11th century was a universal Christian practice. Pope Urban II (c.1035-1099) is credited with recommending that Catholics receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.
The regulations on Lenten fast and abstinence are:
Fasting – On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – those who are 18 to 59 are allowed to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals are allowed as needed, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
Abstinence from meat – Those who are 14 and older are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.