NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday begins the holiest time in the Christian faith, Lenten season, but, as with all else, the still-present coronavirus forces change to tradition.

The music of church bells filled the air outside of Holy Child Jesus — St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish one day ahead of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

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“It’s a really good time to reflect, to think about the year,” said Huntington, Long Island, resident Paul Tonna.

Simply put, devout Catholic Paul Tonna says Lent is when he and wife, Carol, try “upping our game to be a little more like Jesus.”

For the 40-day stretch that is Lent, Christians typically give something up.

“I’m giving up meat,” Bronx resident Kayla Garcia said. “I’m trying to give up cursing … and no alcohol … It kind of just shows him that I would sacrifice things just like how he sacrifices for us.”

“Remove that which holds us back from Christ and try to grow in holiness,” said Father Christopher Heanue, administrator of Holy Child Jesus — St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish.

Heanue, with the Diocese of Brooklyn, says this tradition will hold, but because of COVID, others must be altered for the safety of priests and their parishes.

“We may not see as many people on the train with ashes on their foreheads tomorrow,” he told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

Instead of marking the foreheads of the faithful with the sign of the cross, Heanue will be sprinkling the ashes overhead.

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“It’s going to be a learning experience,” he said.

He believes this change offers a beautiful opportunity for spiritual growth; no more public display of faith.

“Only you will know and your relationship with God,” Heanue said.

“Any way we get it, we are closer to the Lord,” churchgoer Nury Rossi said.

Heanue says livestreaming of all celebrations and services will continue. He expects Palm Sunday will look different.

“Normally, there’s a procession of the people who come with their palms,” he said.

Staying in place is more likely.

On Holy Thursday, priests wash the feet of 12 people in the parish, but it’s up in the air whether or not that will happen this year.

Traditions have been changed, but their significance is not lost on believers.

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The Lenten season ends on Easter Sunday, April 4, with the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Vanessa Murdock