Why? The Old Testament is filled with stories describing the use of ashes in such a manner. Often called the Day of Ashes, Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession. Attendees will experience communal confession, as well as moments where they are prompted to silently confess sins and pray. Part of his job was to explain the company’s benefit package to his new employees. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/reference/holidays/meaning-cross-ashes-ash-wednesday.html, Why some people celebrate Christmas in January. But why does Lent begin on a Wednesday, and what is the significance of ashes? ), Eastern and Western churches use different days to mark the start of Lent. Holy Week, Passion Week TimelineWhat Is Palm Sunday?What is Maundy Thursday?What Is Passover?What Is Good Friday? Want an ad-free experience?Subscribe to Independent Premium. Amen. Though Lent is not named or observed in the Bible, as Christianity Today notes, “the path of Lent—prayer, fasting, and generosity over a period of time—is heavily emphasized by the authors of and characters in the Bible, including Jesus. The vernal (spring) equinox generally falls on March 21, thus the date of Easter in the Western Church can occur anytime between March 22 and April 25. Usually, as the priest or pastor will dip his finger into the ashes, spread them in a cross pattern on the forehead, and say, “From dust you came and from dust you will return.”. Get updates from Mark D. Roberts delivered straight to your inbox, Copyright © 2012 Mark D. Roberts and Patheos. Let us go whither our mother leads us, that is, to the scene of the fall.”, Like all those before us, we unhesitatingly embrace this invitation to sanctity, this time to turn away from sin. “When we come forward to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our faults, purify our hearts, control our desires and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy” (The CatholicSpirit.com). I wanted to be sure that the theological underpinnings of such a practice were biblically solid, and that it was something in which I could freely participate. Seeking the Peace of Christ: Christianity and Peacemaking, Thanksgiving: Not Just a Day, But a Season, The Colors of the Christian Year – Part of Series: Introduction to the Christian Year. Create a commenting name to join the debate, There are no Independent Premium comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts, There are no comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts. It always falls on the Wednesday six and a … 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. St. John Chrysostom (347-409) explained it this way: “Do you fast? A nun prays at Golgotha on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While the exact timing and extent of Lent both before and after the Nicaea council is unclear, what is clear from historical documents is that Christians did celebrate a season of Lent to prepare themselves for Resurrection Sunday and used a variety of ways to do so. “You are dust,” I said, implying, “You are going to die.”. If you’d like to start thinking through and observing Lent and Ash Wednesday, here are a few verses specific to Ash Wednesday to meditate and reflect on, and then a prayer you can pray to observe the day. It finally dawned on me what I was seeing. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, and falls six and a half weeks before Easter. One year, as I returned to my seat after imposing ashes upon dozens of worshipers, I sat next to my 12-year-old son. It's observed by individuals from various sectors of Christianity, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists. Are we Christians morose? “One meal a day was allowed in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs, and butter were forbidden. Lent – being either for or against – can become a way of climbing up on to the pedestal.”, He goes on to say, “What is more important than the practices we take on is the heart attitude behind them. This happens during a special Ash Wednesday service. In his Gospel Coalition article Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent, Trevin Wax gives us an important reminder regardless of whether we personally observe Lent: “I hardly think the church is suffering from too much fasting,” Wax says. And the Maccabees army prepared for battle: “That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their garments” (1 Mc 3:47). Rather, what allows us to stare death in the face is the assurance of life, real life, eternal life. Article Images Copyright © 2020 Getty Images unless otherwise indicated. We all stand guilty before a holy God. Christians take part in the annual abstinent period of Lent in order to commemorate Jesus Christ, who, according to a biblical narrative, once spent 40 days and nights fasting in the Judaean Desert while being tempted by Satan. We get cosmetic surgery to preserve the image of youth. In the early seventh century, St. Pope Gregory I the Great (r. 590-604) resolved this situation by adding as fast days the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the first Sunday of Lent. Michael J. McGivney, 10 Tips for Making the Lenten Season More Meaningful. And how thankful I am for a day that allows me to think about death so I can cherish life even more! Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. The 40-day period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, with Catholics around the world observing the season which culminates in Easter Sunday. We can face death without fear or pretending, because we know the One who defeated death. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. An Introduction to Advent. Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday is a significant day in the Christian calendar denoting the beginning of the repentant period of Lent which precedes Easter. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a 40-day period of penance for Christians around the world. Why? The emotional result of Ash Wednesday observance isn’t depression or gloom, but gratitude and new energy for living. How grateful I am for the grace of God that allows us to stare death in the face so we can live with greater passion and delight! Is Ash Wednesday Only for Catholics, Or Can Protestants Celebrate Too? The tradition of Ash Wednesday is handed down in the Catholic Church, but Protestant and Episcopalian churches may participate in celebrating Ash Wednesday, either in spirit or in the practice of wearing ashes on the forehead. This tradition was relaxed by Roman Catholics around World War II. We confess our sins to you. I don’t have much longer to live. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying" (2 Samuel 13:19). That Lent evolved into a period of 40 days in length is not surprising as there are numerous biblical events that also involved 40 days. At this point the employee had a shocked look on his face, and said, “No, no, Tim!”, Tim wasn’t sure he had been clear, so he explained, once again, “Look, if you die, your family will get $25,000.”. For most of my life, I didn’t ask this question, nor did I care about the answer. I’m not afraid. “But I do think the church is suffering from too much self-righteousness (and I include myself in this indictment). Ash Wednesday meaning is always 46 days before Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday occurs exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday, which is a moveable feast. But why does Lent begin on a Wednesday, and what is the significance of ashes? The End of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)? Today, celebrations of Ash Wednesday vary among churches that recognize this holiday. Mostly, though, the 40 days of Lent identifies with the time our Lord Jesus spent in the desert fasting, praying and being tempted by the devil (Mt 4:1-11). They ate one meal a day and only an amount of food that would sustain survival. Here are the important dates of Lent and when they occur in 2021: The history and beginnings of Lent aren’t clear. Her confidence that her life was really just beginning. The ashes of this holiday symbolize two main things: death and repentance. It included the “imposition of ashes” on the foreheads of worshipers. Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. We acknowledge that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.”, Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search, Helping Catholics know & love the Lord and his Church, Novena in preparation for the Beatification of Fr. A Careful Look at the Real Evidence, What is Advent? Her assurance that her soul was safe in the hands of a gracious, loving God. Lord, Holy One, have mercy on us. We all are mortal and will someday experience bodily death. Or maybe, you grew up in a Catholic or Protestant church that held Ash Wednesday services each year, and so you’re already familiar with the service, but aren’t too sure about the history of Ash Wednesday and Lent, and what they have to do with the Christian faith. A: Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. You may also find valuable the following introduction to Lent: What is Ash Wednesday? In the West, these fasting rules have gradually been relaxed. It’s about living in an austere way, giving from our abundance to the poor. What Are the Different End Times Opinions Amongst Denominations? My boy won’t live forever. I, as the pastor, was expected to be one of the chief imposers! On Palm Sunday, churches bless and hand out palm branches to attendees, a reference to the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when onlookers lay palm branches on his path. It is applied by a priest during a morning mass, often along with a small blessing: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." The ash cross marking observersâ foreheads is meant to represent mortality and penance for their sins. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, is a day set aside for prayer and repentance. One time, Tim hired a young man who didn’t speak English very well because he had recently immigrated to the United States. Help us keep both the weight and the joy of this season in our hearts and we move through the next several weeks. Among the beautiful, meaningful and solemn ceremonies of the Catholic Church is the gathering of the faithful on Ash Wednesday. The Bible commands a lifestyle of worship and devotion that looks considerably like Lent. Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday (holy day) that is not a biblical requirement (just like Christmas and Easter, which are not commanded in Scripture). In the Latin Church, six weeks were used to identify the Lenten period, but you didn’t fast on Sundays, so six Sundays were subtracted and there remained only 36 fasting days. We dye our graying hair. The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughte… Also, send me the Evangelical Newsletter and special offers. We can talk openly about the limits of this life. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God and marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, a 40-day period of penance for Christians around the world.