Many U students walked around campus last week with black smudges on their foreheads.
What might appear to some as dirt was actually the result of Ash Wednesday mass with the Catholic Church. The U has a Catholic student population of close to 4,500. Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days and requires faithful members to give up something for the duration of the season. This practice is undertaken in commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, respectively.
Some students chose to give up fast food, others alcohol. But Father Chrysostomos Gilbert, a Greek Orthodox priest who grew up in Utah, said watching words and actions are equally as important during Lent. Greek Orthodox Christians, like other Catholic sects, are called to fast during the period. But where Catholics generally fast from meat on Fridays, Orthodox faithful are called to fast from meat and dairy all 40 days.
“For Orthodox Christians, Great Lent is a time to re-focus our lives in Christ,” Gilbert said. “It’s not a time to focus only on what we are giving up, but we must become cognizant of the way we are conducting ourselves. It’s about adding something to our spiritual lives through fasting, prayer and almsgiving as we prepare for the ultimate feast day, Easter.”
Although Lent is historically and theologically a Christian practice, other religions have begun to take part in the practice as a sign of religious solidarity. Recently many Muslims have posted pictures to twitter with #Muslims4Lent.
Marina Neofitos, an undeclared freshman, said she thinks it’s amazing that Muslim students are joining with Christian students during the period of Lent.
“Our world has become so polarized,” Neofitos said. “When we can find beauty in our differences, big or small, it really shows the power of understanding and respect. Lent may be a Christian idea, [but] many of the things it teaches can be shared by people of all religions.”
Easter Sunday is April 5 this year. However, Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Easter one week later on April 12.