Many people ask, “What is Ash Wednesday?” Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and always falls forty-six days before Easter.
The meaning of Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday church services help to prepare church members to better appreciate the death and resurrection of Christ through self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year’s Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of worshipers, saying, “Remember, that you are dust and to dust you shall return”.
Ash Wednesday Origins
Ash Wednesday has a non-Christian origin and was accepted into the beliefs of the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council also settled upon the 40-day fast period as the standard length to celebrate Lent.
In 601 the beginning of Lent was moved from the fourth Sunday of Lent to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter. This change allowed for 40 days of fasting with six Sundays counted as feast days, for a total of 46 days for Lent. It was also the beginning of the tradition of marking parishioners forehead’s with ashes in the shape of a cross.
Is Ash Wednesday Mentioned in the Bible?
Ash Wednesday is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, however, from Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin. Several times the Bible mentions people repenting in dust and ashes with repentance in dust and ashes often being accompanied with fasting.
The important fact to remember is that Christians should be ready and willing to repent, fast, and focus on God throughout the year and not just during the Lenten season.
Ash Wednesday prayer
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
All that is not of God must die
All that is crushed will be restored
All that is lost will be made new
God may we repent of ways that do not serve you
and admit to the tensions that tell us where we need to change
Christ is coming walking towards the cross
God may we see him clearly
Pouring out love, Pouring out mercy, Pouring out peace
May we kneel before him in humble adoration
May we take up our cross and follow
And walk with Christ into the ways of life. Amen