Christians throughout the Southland will observe Ash Wednesday Wednesday, ushering in the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, discipline and good works.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of penance. A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross.

In the Roman Catholic church, individuals are told as the ashes are applied to their foreheads, “Turn from sin and live the Gospel.”

Catholics observe Ash Wednesday by fasting, abstaining from meat and repenting. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.

The Rev. Jose H. Gomez, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at noon at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The Mass will be streamed live on facebook.com/olacathedral.

Masses with distribution of ashes will also be celebrated at the cathedral in English at 6:15, 7 and 8 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. and at 7 p.m. in Spanish. A bilingual Liturgy of the Word with distribution of ashes will be celebrated at 3 p.m.

Those attending Mass or Liturgical services will receive a 90-minute parking validation.

“We are invited on Ash Wednesday to remember our mortality,” Gomez said. “We cannot change the world in 40 days, but we can make a good beginning. So, let us make this Lent a time of growing deeper in our friendship with Jesus, reforming our lives by conforming our lives more closely to his.”

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