Nigerian Christians yesterday joined their counterparts across the globe to mark Ash Wednesday to herald Lent, the annual 40-day fast that precedes Easter.
In their separate messages, clerics, especially from the Catholic denomination, urged their members to embrace meekness, a core virtue of Jesus Christ.
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, called for repentance and reconciliation among Nigerians.
Kukah noted that, “It is rather sad that today Christians have become slack and nonchalant about their personal and community obligations in the Lenten Season.
“The Catholic Church has laid out a series of devotions for this period such as the Stations of the Cross, the recitation of the Rosary, fasting, and so on. These devotions are not mandatory but they serve to help us along the journey of repentance and renewal.
“Today, however, so many of us merely gloss over this important and precious period which invites us to deep individual, family and community introspection. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, also referred to as Confession, today suffers the same neglect and should be moved to the front burner by all Catholics. Imagine if we all seriously spared a thought to examine what we have done as individuals to bring Nigeria to where it is today, one way or the other.”
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Its official name is “Day of Ashes,” because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in remembrance of the nature of man who came from dust.
It is exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday and will always fall on a Wednesday.
In Enugu State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, his wife, Monica, leaders and members of the State House of Assembly and the State Executive Council (SEC), were among the huge congregation that gathered at the Government House, Enugu for Ash Wednesday Mass to kick-off the 2016 Lenten Season.
Chaplain of the Government House Chapel, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Chinedu Ozor-Ude, who preached the sermon on the occasion, enjoined Christians to forfeit their pleasures but embark on intensive prayers, fasting and alms-giving during the Lenten period to properly purge themselves of their old sinful ways and accordingly put the state on a path of moral rearmament.
The Deputy Governor, Hon. Cecilia Ezeilo, represented Governor Ugwuanyi on the occasion.
Rev. Fr. Ozor-Ude told the congregation that the celebration of the Mass of Ash Wednesday, reminds the faithful that they came from dust and to dust shall they return.
He explained that Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lenten period of 40 days and urged them to use the opportunity to repent of their sins by eschewing their favourites and maintaining good relationships with their neighbours as Christ did while on earth.
In his homily, the Dean, Student Affairs, Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, Rev. Fr. Remigius Ibudialo, urged Nigerians not to be selfish in their endeavours but rather to be their brothers’ keepers in order to please God and humanity.
The Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki felicitated with the Christian faithful on the event, urging them to use the period to pray for the peace and stability of the country.
Saraki, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu in Abuja, specifically enjoined Christians to seek the face of God on the way out of the present socio-economic and security challenges in the country.
He thanked all Nigerians for their unflinching support to the Federal Government in the fight against insurgency, saying their invaluable contributions have in no small way contributed to the successes recorded so far in the fight against Boko Haram.