ROME, MARCH 4, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI will begin Lent with a visit to the Lenten Station Church for Ash Wednesday, the Basilica of St. Sabina on the Aventine.
A note of from the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff revealed that on Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 9 this year, the Pope will preside at a 4:30 p.m. prayer service in the Church of St. Anselm on the Aventine, a procession to St. Sabina, and liturgy at the basilica.
Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, Dominican Fathers of St. Sabina and some faithful will take part in the procession. At the end of the procession, the Eucharistic celebration will take place with the rite of blessing and imposition of ashes.
The custom of celebrating Mass at a Station Church during Lent dates back to the Middle Ages when popes would celebrate the Eucharist assisted by all the priests of the churches of Rome in one of the 43 “station” basilicas of the city.
After an initial prayer, the procession proceeded from one Church to another with the singing of the Litanies of the Saints, which concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist.
At the end of the Mass, the priests took the Eucharistic bread (fermentum) and brought it to the faithful who were unable to participate, to indicate communion and unity among all the members of the Church.
The imposition of ashes was a rite reserved at first for public penitents, who had asked to be reconciled during Lent. However, out of humility and recognizing themselves always in need of reconciliation, the Pope, the clergy and then all the faithful wished successively to be associated to that rite also receiving the ashes.
The Lenten Station indicates the pilgrim dimension of the People of God that, in preparation for Holy Week, intensifies the Lenten desert and experiences the distance of “Jerusalem” to which Palm Sunday is directed, so that the Lord can complete — at Easter — his earthly mission and fulfill the plan of the Father.