Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of Lent. Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, prior to the most Holy Day of the Year, Easter - where the Christian community celebrates the Resurrection of Christ.

During the Ash Wednesday celebration, the faithful are marked with the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads with ashes. These ashes are the result of the burning of the palms used for Palm Sunday the prior year.

On the first day of Lent, this signing is done with ashes because they are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one's head (cf. 1 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 1:20, 13:19, 15:32). Ashes also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. When the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes and says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," he is echoing God's address to Adam (Gen. 3:19; cf. Job 34:15; Ps. 90:3, 104:29; Eccles. 3:20). This phrase also echoes the words at a Catholic burial, "Ashes to ashes; dust to dust," which is based on God's words to Adam in Genesis 3 and Abraham's confession, "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27).[1]

Don't be alarmed if today you encounter someone with ashes on their head. My friends tell me that I should try to keep count of the number of times someone tries to point out that I have ashes on my forehead. Those who see others with ashes on their head, consider it a reminder of penance and humility. Those of us who choose to wear the ashes, pray for the continual conversion of your hearts and the hearts of your brothers and sisters.

Let us all make this a great Lent, where our sacrifice of omission or inclusion, be a constant reminder of the Sacrifice of Christ and the price that he paid for us all. Let this Lenten Season bring us all closer to Him.

God bless...

[1] The Day of Ashes

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