It’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Much as Christ spent 40 days in the desert, we are called to spend the next 40 days in “the desert.” It’s a time of soul searching, of fasting and prayer. It is a journey of repentance and refocusing our lives on Christ as we prepare for His resurrection Easter Sunday, His resurrection within ourselves.
So what is Ash Wednesday? Why ashes on our forehead?
Historically Ash Wednesday signifies a day of repentance. The symbolism present is rich. In biblical times we see ashes being used as a sign of repentance. Ashes are also a sign of mortality (dust to dust, ashes to ashes…). When we go to mass the ashes placed on us come from blessed palm fronds from the previous year Palm Sunday. These are burned and the ashes blessed. When they are placed upon our head we call to mind our own unworthiness, sinfulness, fallen nature which leads to death. We begin a journey over 40 days to die a little more to self so that come Easter Christ may be more fully risen, more fully alive within us.
As a part of the beginning of this journey we begin Lent with a day of fasting and abstinence. Adults aged 18-60 are required by the Church to refrain from eating meat. They are allowed one normal meal and two smaller ones with no snacking between. Frequently many Catholics will restrict their intake of food even more for fasting. This again has its roots in scripture where we see Christ in the desert as scripture tells in one of the biggest understatements written that he was hungry. “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” – Luke 4:2. We also see references to fasting throughout the Bible as part of an expression of remorse and repentance.
Ash Wednesday provides each of us the opportunity to once again stop, refocus, and begin the journey down the right path with God. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to start Lent right and attend an Ash Wednesday Service in communion with the Church worldwide.
God Bless and may you have a thoughtful, fruitful, and blessed Lent. – Peace
Looking for a short video on some suggestions for Lent? Check out my Catholic Coffee Talk video with Dr. Peter J. Colosi, Catholic Coffee Talk – Lent.
Additional resources on Ash Wednesday:
- Ash Wednesday Readings
- Why do Catholics put Ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday?
- Ash Wednesday – Our Shifting Understanding of Lent
- Ash Wednesday – February 13, 2013: The first day of Lent
- Welcome to Ash-Wednesday.org
- Prayer, Penance, and Charity
- Preparing for the journey of Lent, 2013
- Journey to the Foot of the Cross – 10 Things to Remember For Lent