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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) — It’s a time of reflection and sacrifice. For Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.

“It’s a moment that we come to open the season of Lent where we are reminded of repentance.  I think it’s a very beautiful statement also that today’s society continues to be very close and devoted to Ash Wednesday, Catholics and Non-Catholics,” said Father Lenin Vargas, Pastor of Starkville’s St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the centuries-old practice of placing “Ash” on the foreheads of believers a reminder to be penitent and to ask for God’s forgiveness.

“This goes across many other Christian denominations into making the statement, yes I’m a sinner but also I’m a firm believer of God’s mercy and I think the sign of ashes really gives us that entitlement to say you know, Chris is the center of our lives,” said Father Vargas.

From now until Easter, Christians fast for 40 days.

“Those 40 days of abstaining from the simplicity of maybe some people eating chocolate or maybe abstaining from facebook. But even beyond that I think it’s an amazing opportunity to look at ourselves and say, what is it that I can change. Maybe as simple as, ‘Can I smile more? Can I be more kind to someone?’ said Father Vargas.

It’s that sense of love and generosity many who attended Mass say they’ll reflect upon.

“More time in prayer, more time in God’s word, studying. To do something that will improve me daily,” said Meridian resident Linda Maloney.

” One of the things they say whenever they give you your ashes is that you are dust and to dust you will return and I always found that just a fascinating aspect to remember that we’re mortal people that there’s someone out there way bigger than us that’s taking care of us and it’s a good, secure feeling to know that we’re not in control of it all and that somebody else who knows what they’re doing is,” said MSU Student Colby Mitchell.

Those who attend Mass typically wear the ash on their forehead or hand until it wears off as a public declaration of their faith.

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