Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the start of the Lenten season, a 40-day period when Christians prepare for Easter, which this year falls on April 20.
Beginning today and ending on Thursday, April 17, called Holy or Maundy Thursday by Christians, observers practice fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. This is meant to imitate Jesus Christ's actions and reflect on his life, death and resurrection.
Lent is most commonly observed by the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations during the 40 days before Palm Sunday with fasting continuing during Holy Week until Easter.
Several local churches will hold special Lenten services today.
Lynnewood Methodist Church at 4444 Black Ave. in Pleasanton will hold a short Ash Wednesday service at 7 p.m. that will include the ritual of drawing the cross in ashes on the hand or forehead to mark the worshipper as a "holy child of God."
At 7 p.m. Saturday, April 5, the church will feature Bach's Palm Sunday and Easter cantatas performed by the Bay Area Classical Harmonies with choir, soloists, and orchestra in the Lynnewood sanctuary.
Two local Lutheran churches also will hold Lenten services today.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton will hold its traditional "Service of the Ashes" at noon, followed by a second service of the ashes and communion at 7 p.m.
On every Wednesday evening through April 9, Trinity will hold a soup supper at 6 p.m. followed by evening prayers at 7 p.m. and parish gatherings at 7:30 p.m.
A Maundy Thursday service will be held at 7 p.m. April 17, with a Good Friday service at 7 p.m. April 18, an Easter Vigil at 7 p.m. April 19, and then Easter morning services April 20 at 9 and 11 a.m. An Easter breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon that day.
Trinity Lutheran is located at 1225 Hopyard Rd. in Pleasanton.
Our Savior Lutheran Church in Livermore will hold its traditional soup suppers before its 7 p.m. Wednesday Lenten services that start tonight. Those will continue through April 9.
Our Savior Lutheran is located at 1385 S Livermore Ave, Livermore, just south of the Livermore Public Library and Civic Center.
St. Michael Catholic Church at 458 Maple St. in Livermore also will observe Ash Wednesday today with masses at 7, 8:30 and 9:30 this morning, and again at 5:30 and 7 p.m. tonight.
St. Raymond Catholic Church at 11555 Shannon Ave. in Dublin will hold Ash Wednesday masses at 8:30 a.m. this morning and at 12:15, 4:15 and 7 p.m. today.
Holy Thursday masses on April 17 will be held at 8:30 a.m. and at 7 p.m. On Good Friday, April 18, St. Raymond's will hold a morning prayer service at 8:30 a.m., followed by Stations of the Cross at noon, and additional services at 1:15 and 7 p.m.
Holy Saturday services will be held April 19 at 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Easter Sunday masses are scheduled April 20 at 7:30, 9, 9:15, 10:45 and 11 a.m., and at 12:30 p.m. in Spanish.