It’s an awkward pairing: A day of love and a day of fasting and repentance.
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day this year, and that’s left some religious people in a quandary.
“Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday are on the same day this year..... take ya girl out to mass #bestdateever,” one person tweeted.
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For Catholics, abstaining from meat is still a requirement.
In Chicago, Catholic leaders said Valentine’s Day could be celebrated on the Tuesday before. Several Catholic schools in Wichita followed this model, celebrating Valentine’s Day early.
In the Kansas City Kansas Archdiocese, married couples were invited to join in an annual World Marriage Day celebration a few days before Valentine’s Day — even if they might not be able to have that steak dinner with wine and desserts on Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the season of Lent, the 40-day period that leads to Easter. It’s a time of fasting and repentance for many Christians, not just Catholics.
On Ash Wednesday, many have ashes applied to their foreheads as the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” are said.
The jokes have been plentiful:
“I’m stoked that Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day because who better to go on a date with than Jesus am I right ladies?” one person asked on Twitter.
“Well Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day so instead of remembering I’m alone I can remember that I’m dust and to dust I shall return,” tweeted another.
Some have posted pictures of conversation heart candies decorated with phrases like “you are dust,” “time for Mass” and “xtra devotion.”
Yet some leaders are saying the pairing need not be so awkward.
The Rev. Jill Sander-Chali, associate pastor at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church in Wichita, said the two traditions make a stark contrast when it comes to feasting and sweets versus a day of fasting.
They also have commonalities, she said, since Ash Wednesday involves repenting and returning to God. That reminds her of human love and how she talks about forgiveness whenever she does premarital counseling.
Ash Wednesday also calls for Christians to reflect on their mortality, she said.
“I think that draws us into reflection on what matters most in life,” Sander-Chali said. “When I think about that, I think many of us would say we think of the people we love and the relationships that are important to us, whether that’s a romantic love or familial love or a friendship love.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, told the New York Times that people could mark both days. Perhaps couples could go to a “small-plates place” for a meal, since fasting in the Catholic Church generally means eating one full meal and two smaller meals that don’t add up to a full meal.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, wrote online that both days are about “the heart.”
“Ash Wednesday, the first of forty days of prayer, penance, and charity we call Lent, leading us to Holy Week and Easter, is also about the heart: a heart called sacred, wounded by unreturned love, broken by callousness and selfishness: the heart of Jesus.
The Rev. Mari Larson, senior pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, said if you look at the “core” of Valentine’s Day, it meshes well with Ash Wednesday.
“That (Valentine’s Day) is not about the ushy gushy romantic love, it is about that deeper love, and that’s the kind of love that God has for us,” she said. “As weird as it feels, it is very appropriate for Ash Wednesday to fall on Valentine’s Day.”