Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The Season of Lent is a season of penance, reflection and fasting. Lent prepares us for our Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Through his resurrection Jesus conquers death, and we attain the gift of salvation.
Where Do the Ashes Come From?
Blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes we receive during Ash Wednesday Mass. These ashes are scented when they are exposed to incense, and they are blessed with Holy Water.
In the Old Testament ashes were used as a sign of penance and mourning when they were sprinkled on the head and over the body.
Receiving ashes on the first day of Lent is a practice that can be traced back to the fifth century. It was a universal Christian practice by the eleventh century. Many Protestant churches did away with the use of ashes during the Reformation. A lot of these churches have reintroduced the use of ashes in recent years.
Pope Urban II (c. 1035-1099) is the one credited with advising that we Catholic receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Ashes humble us and remind us of our mortality. When we are told, “Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return,” we remember life here on earth is temporary. We are only here for a short time – a time to prepare for our eternal life in heaven. Lent is a perfect time to reflect on this. Attending Mass on Ash Wednesday is the perfect way to begin our Lenten journey.
Ashes symbolize penance and contrition, but they also remind us that God is merciful and gracious to all those who seek forgiveness, through Him, with truly remorseful hearts. God’s divine mercy is an extremely important part of the Lenten Season. The Church encourages us to ask for God’s mercy during Lent through reflection, penance and prayer.
More about Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is celebrated forty days before Good Friday.
Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence.
Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but we are encouraged to attend Mass to prepare for the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. Even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday is one of the most widely attended Masses of the year.
Ashes are distributed during Mass.
Peace in Christ,
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