Ash Wednesday - Some Thoughts from our Priest-in-Charge

Some thoughts from our interim priest in-charge…

Ash Wednesday, the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, is a time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm crosses distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the priest reminds each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

This may sound like a ‘downer’ but it’s supposed to be a reminder that our earthly lives are short and we must live them to the fullest. I find it to be a comfort, knowing that God created us from dust, and we are never lost to God’s holy creation.

The night before Ash Wednesday is a secular observance called Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” or for us, Pancake Tuesday. It is the last ‘indulgence’ in fat and rich food before we start our Lenten fast.

There is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible. But there is a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes,” and there are other associations of ashes and repentance in Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.”

There’s no Lent in the Bible, either, though Christians see it as an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert.

This coming Wednesday, if anyone asks you why you have a black cross, or smudge of dirt, on your forehead, tell them – “I am a Christian and I am getting ready for Easter.”


[1] Thanks to the Ash Wednesday reflection in Huff Post.

NewsFlower Pearson