What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

Christians will gather this Ash Wednesday to observe the beginning of Lent, the 40-days leading up to the Easter celebration. But in Pacific Palisades and Brentwood, what does Ash Wednesday mean to followers today?

Christians throughout the Southland will observe Ash Wednesday Wednesday, beginning the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, self-denial and good works.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes of the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown.

In the Roman Catholic church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat and repentance. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.

At St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Brentwood, Ash Wednesday mass begins at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

At Corpus Christi Parish in Pacific Palisades, Ash Wednesday masses occur at 8 a.m., 12 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Archbishop Jose Gomez will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon in English at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A., where Mass will be also celebrated in English at 6:15 a.m., 7 a.m., 8 a.m., and 5:15 p.m. and at 7 p.m. in Spanish. A bilingual Liturgy of the Word will be celebrated at 3 p.m.

Gomez made reference to the release of personnel files of priests accused of sexual misconduct in his Lenten message, distributed to parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Friday, before Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he will resign Feb. 28.

"We need to be transformed once more by the person of Jesus Christ and the power of his Gospel," Gomez wrote. "We need to live our faith win new sincerity, new zeal, new purpose and new purity. We need a new desire to be his disciples."

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