Today is a day of abstinence. Under the New Code of Canon Law, all Catholics aged 14 or old must abstain from meat on this day. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups made from meat or gravies made from meats too.
Canon 1250 of 1917 Canon Law:
The law of abstinence prohibits meat and soups made from meat but not of eggs, milks, and also whatever condiments are derived from animal fat [CIC(1917) 1250].
Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted. However, for those between 18 and 59 years of age are bound to fast also fast on Ash Wednesday. On this day one normal-sized meal and two smaller meals that do not equal the normal meal are allowed. Eating between meals, however, is prohibited although fruit juices and milk are allowed.
Ash Wednesday: Sacred Liturgy
Today's Mass embodies the spirit of Lent. All are reminded to be sorry for sin and to do penance, but not in a spirit of showy sadness or of inward despair. Rather, let the sincere and humble prepare with inner joy to celebrate their baptism in Christ. By living their baptismal promises, they enter more deeply into Christ's suffering. Knowing God's desire to forgive, t heal, and to share with all men His own divine life, we discipline our passions gladly and with confidence in victory. God gives the grace for every Lenten restraint. Therefore everyone should receive the blessed ashes, both as a means of grace and as a reminder to do penance unobtrusively, for personal sins and for the sins of all mankind.
Before the Mass, the celebrant vested in alb, purple stole, and cope, goes up to the altar for the blessing of the ashes.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ASHES
The celebrant stands and receives ashes on his head; he then distributes them to the clergy and the congregation, who kneel before him. He admonishes each one as he places ashes on his head:
Remember, man, that you are dust, and into dust you shall return.
INTROIT (Sap. 11:24, 25, 27)
You are merciful to all, O Lord, and hate none of the things that You have made. When men repent, You overlook their sins and pardon them; for You are the Lord our God.
Ps. 56:2. Have pity on me, O God, have pity on me, for my soul trusts in You.
V. Glory be . . .
O Lord, may the faithful begin the solemn season of fast with fitting piety, and may they continue through to its end with unwavering devotion. Through our Lord . . .
LESSON (Joel 2:12-19)
Now, therefore, saith the Lord. Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and mourning. And rend your hearts, and not your garments and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bridal chamber. Between the porch and the altar the priests, the Lord's ministers, shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? The Lord hath been zealous for his land, and hath spared his people. And the Lord answered, and said to his people: Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them: and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.
GRADUAL (Ps. 56:2, 4)
Have pity on me, O God, have pity on me, for my soul trusts in You. V. He has sent from heaven, and saved me; He has made them a reproach who trample upon me.
TRACT (Ps. 102:10; 78:8-9)
O Lord, repay us not according to the sins we have committed, nor according to our iniquities. V. O Lord, remember not our iniquities of the past; let Your mercy come quickly to us, for we are being brought very low. (All Kneel.) V. Help us, O God our Savior, and for the glory of Your name, O Lord, deliver us; and pardon us our sins for Your name's sake.
GOSPEL (Matt. 6:16-21)
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee.
"Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also."
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON (Ps. 29:2-3)
I will extol You, O Lord, for You have upheld me, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O Lord, I cried out to You and You have healed me.
O Lord, make us truly fit to offer these gifts with which we commemorate the institution of this blessed Sacrament. Through our Lord . . .
COMMUNION ANTIPHON (Ps. 1:2-3)
He who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night shall bring forth his fruit in due season.
O Lord, may this Sacrament which we have received make our fasting an acceptable offering to You and a healthful remedy to our souls. Through our Lord . . .
PRAYER OVER THE PEOPLE
O Lord, look with mercy upon those who worship before Your majesty. May Your heavenly aid always strengthen those who have feasted upon Your divine Sacrament. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and rules with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.