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ASH WEDNESDAY

Fill Valentine’s Day with Lenten spirit – bishop

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

DAGUPAN CITY—Valentine’s Day this year falls on Ash Wednesday—the first time since 1945—and the Catholic Church has found the opportunity to correct what it describes as “wrong notions of love.”

“February 14 is a good day to reflect on love and what it really means,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said in a homily guide posted to his diocese’s website (http://lingayen-dagupan.org).

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Villegas also said Catholics should not forget on Valentine’s Day other forms of love and the greatest love of all: the love of Jesus Christ on the cross, dying for the sins of the world.

A copy of his homily, titled “Lessons of Love for Ash Wednesday,” was e-mailed to reporters on Tuesday.

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Lent starts

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season, which culminates on Easter, during which Catholics remember the resurrection of Jesus three days after he died on the cross.

Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers, based on the feast of a saint believed to have lived in the third century and associated with courtly love but whose historicity is so nebulous the Church removed him from the General Roman Calendar in 1969, leaving his liturgical celebration to local calendars.

Villegas said Filipinos should fill Valentine’s Day with the Lenten spirit, not forgetting other forms of love.

“The real symbol of love is not Cupid with [a bow and] arrow but Christ hanging on the cross declaring in that action at Calvary that ‘there is no greater love than to die for your beloved,’” Villegas said.

“Let us relocate love from romanticism to heroism. Let us move our gaze from Cupid with his arrow to Jesus Christ on the cross. Let us move from cheap love to true love,” he said.

Love, Villegas said, is best expressed in three ways—sacrifice, like fasting and abstinence; praying in silence and solitude, and selfless giving.

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Fasting and abstinence, he said, are not just exercises of willpower, as the faithful eat and enjoy less so that the hungry and suffering can have more comfort.

Give to the poor

“Fasting and abstinence are acts of love. The food we do not eat or the meat we abstain from must be given to those who practically fast every day due to extreme poverty, enduring inhuman hunger,” he said.

Lent, he said, is a season for prayer in silence and solitude, “welcoming the Lord and everybody, friends and enemies, into our souls.”

Villegas urged the faithful to practive selfless giving until it becomes second nature.

“Love is best shown by giving. Love is generous. Love gives without counting the cost,” he said.

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TAGS: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Lenten spirit, Lessons of Love for Ash Wednesday, Socrates Villegas, Valantine's Day
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