For Paul Semakula, a senior three student at Old Kampala Secondary School, the sight of thousands of students graduating is more worrying than exciting. And as such, the student is planning to fast about it. “I am going to forego meat for the next 40 days and pray to God that I get a job after school,” he says.
Semakula is among the thousands of Christians who are preparing to observe the period of lent, starting today.
In a bid to remind Christians of the need to fast during this period, Rev. Lawrence Kaddu, a retired priest with the Church of Uganda, says while most Christians only prefer to pray, fasting is equally important. “If we combine self-denial and prayer, then we can be sure of achievement in life,” he says. Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter according to Wikipedia.
How it came about
The day derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered after the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned.
During the lent period, Christians forego items of desire, such as food and earthly pleasures and dedicate their lives to God through sustained prayer.
Monsignor Gerald Kalumba of Christ the King Church in Kampala, while officiating at a thanksgiving mass, said fasting has come for Christians to reflect on their failures for appropriate remedies. “Our lives must be like clay soil that allows water to enter and make them permeable because Christ enters our lives and transforms them,” he said. He added, that like Isaiah, Saul and Peter accepted Christ to transform their lives and Christians should open up for Christ to identify their failures and changes them fully.
According to Pastor Martin Sempa, of Makerere Community Church, this is, “a time of collective lamenting and grief.” In the Republic of Ireland, Ash Wednesday is National No Smoking Day. This day was chosen because quitting smoking ties in with giving up luxury for Lent.