"Christian life is a struggle without truce using the 'arms' of prayer, fasting and penance," the Pope said.
Vatican City, Mar. 1, 2006 (www.kath.net) - At 4.30 p.m. yesterday, Ash Wednesday, following a brief moment of prayer in the church of St. Anslem on Rome's Aventine Hill, the traditional penitential procession wound its way to the nearby Basilica of Santa Sabina. There Benedict XVI. presided at Mass, pronounced the homily and blessed the ashes that were then imposed on all those who participated in the event.
"The penitential procession with which we began today's celebration," said the Pope at the beginning of his homily, "helped us to enter into the atmosphere typical of Lent, which is an individual and community pilgrimage of conversion and spiritual renewal."
The Holy Father went on to explain how Lenten rites, such as the imposition of the ashes and the "stations," or visits to churches containing relics of the martyrs, maintain their significance over the centuries.
This is "because they recall the importance, even in our own times, of the uncompromising acceptance of Jesus' words," and help us to understand "that exterior gestures must always be accompanied by sincerity of spirit and coherence of works."