Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Western Christian calendar. According to Church tradition, the day is scheduled 46 days before Easter. The day varies every year and falls somewhere between February 4 and as late as March 10. This practice is common in much of Christendom, being observed mainly by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent- the "40-day" liturgical period of prayer and fasting (abstinence). Actually, there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, but the six Sundays that fall in between are considered to be "feast days" and do not count as "fast days," because as "Sabbath days" they are considered days when participants "rest" from fasting.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday.
The use of ashes to signify mortality is derived from this passage in Ecclesiastes...
The message and symbolism of Ash Wednesday is simple and straightforward:
We are human,
We are mortal.
We will die,
We have no say in this, but...
We do have a bit of a say in how our souls are formed.
We can make an intentional decision to either stretch outward- Toward God, or
We can decide to curve inward on ourselves.
We decide to do one or the other,
and we choose to participate in practices that help us to find new ways
to keep this Major Choice in the forefront of our minds.
It is through the intentional practices that we initiate during the Lenten season
that we find new ways to move the reality of this choice
from the forefront of our minds to the depths of our heats.
For the next "Forty-Or-So" Days...
Join me on a journey to do just that...