FARMINGTON — Omar Villa and his cousin, Lopita Villa, stood Wednesday evening at the back of the crowded sanctuary inside Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Farmington.
The cousins, who attend church every Sunday, received ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday in ceremony that marked the start of the Lent.
For Christians around the world, Lent is a time for self-reflection and renewing their devotion. The six-week Lenten season precedes Easter, when Christians celebrate Jesus' Resurrection. Easter falls on April 20 this year,
Omar Villa said Lent is important for him because it puts Christians "through a little stage of what Christ suffered."
Father Timothy Farrell, the pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said Lent means praying more frequently, seeking contrition and sacrificing more fully.
During the six weeks of Lent, Christians often give up something. Farrell said this can be coffee or candy bars or "just a simple thing to say I'm giving back to God."
He said people during the year can become self-centered.
"Lent reminds us that we should be God-centered," he said.
The Rev. Glen Perica, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Farmington, said Lent is a time for self-reflection.
"It's a time for us to acknowledge where we have fallen short of where God wants us to be," Perica said.
He said during Lent Christians should be honest with God about what they want to be and seek God's grace and forgiveness.
Growing up, Perica remembers people giving things up for Lent. He said he feels people should take something on during the season. He suggested adding a daily devotional time or reading the Bible more.
The Rev. Carl Brenner of Christ Church, an Anglican Community in the Four Corners, said Lent comes from the old English word "Lencten," which means spring or new life.
"Lent is the season of the church year to encourage new growth in our spiritual life," Brenner said.
Brenner said Lent is mainly celebrated by liturgical denominations such as Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. These denominations follow the church year and tend to have more ritualized services.
"Lent is a season preparing us for the greatest feast of the year — which is Easter," Farrell said.
The Lenten season began on Ash Wednesday, when churches hosted services and distributed ashes.
The ashes traditionally come from palm fronds used during the previous year's Palm Sunday service, Perica said.
Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday before Easter, kicks off Holy Week. Christians often wave palm branches in celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.
Perica and Farrell said the ashes not only remind people they are sinners and have been forgiven, but they also remind people of their mortality.
"As Christ died, we are reminded that we, too, will die," Perica said.
Brenner said when the ashes are smeared in a cross-shape on people's foreheads, the people receiving them are told to remember that they are dust and to dust they shall return. That, he said, is reminder of people's mortality, their need to be right with God and God's mercy.
However, the Lenten season's message also reminds people that they will be resurrected like Jesus, Perica said.
"It's a solemn season, but it's also a season full of hope," Farrell said.