Ashes are imposed on the forehead of a faithful during the University-wide Ash Wednesday Mass at the UST Plaza Mayor on Wednesday, Feb. 14. (Photo by Josh Nikkolai S. Bravo/ The Varsitarian)

THE “HAPPY coincidence” between Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day underscored the importance of having a pure heart this Lent, one that seeks the forgiveness of God and gives love to others, Vice Rector for Religious Affairs Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P. said during the University-wide Ash Wednesday Mass.

Tiong said Ash Wednesday was the “best thing” to happen on Feb. 14, which has become “commercialized” in recent years.

“What a beautiful Valentine’s Day, not commercialized, not secularized, but it goes back to the message that really, we begin [this] Wednesday in prayer, in humility, in fasting, and in good works; we follow Jesus and leave behind everything sinful [and] everything that burdens us on the journey,” the vice rector said in his homily at the UST Plaza Mayor on Wednesday, Feb. 14. 

Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the 40-day Lenten season, has “purified” the message of Valentine’s Day, which has long been symbolized by the heart and characterized by romantic love, Tiong said. 

Siyempre, gusto niyo na ‘yong puso na ating nasi-symbolize sa Valentine’s Day ay malapit sa Diyos,” he said. 

“That it is, first of all, a heart that recognizes the forgiveness of God. It is, first of all, a heart that follows Jesus. It is, first of all, a heart that loves God and loves the neighbor.”

Tiong added that Lent allows the heart to transform as the faithful prepare to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Valentine’s Day commemorates St. Valentine, a martyr who was beheaded in 270 for solemnizing marriages among young couples in Rome despite the prohibition of Emperor Claudius II.

Tiong said the saint made his mark in the Catholic Church for “fighting for the sanctity of marriage.”

“St. Valentine was really spreading the truth that there must be fidelity in marriage,” he said. “So originally, we have something so important that touches our heart.”

Before the Mass, priests received confessions from Thomasians during the “Kumpisalang Bayan” at Benavides Park.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the only days in the Church calendar that require fasting and abstinence, though the faithful are encouraged to avoid meat every Friday this Lent.

On Ash Wednesday, the cross is marked on the forehead with ash from remnants of burnt palm fronds, symbolizing mortality and penance for sins, as humans came from dust, and from dust, they would return, according to Catholic teaching.

Holy Week this year will fall on March 24, Palm Sunday, to 31, Easter Sunday.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day will coincide again on Feb. 14, 2029. The next one will be in the year 2170. Sheila May S. Balagan


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