Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today is Ash Wednesday. Just what is Ash Wednesday? Well:
  • It is the beginning of Lent, which always falls on the seventh Wednesday be fore Easter.
  • It is 46 days long. Sundays are not counted as days of Lent so there are actually 40 days of Lent.
  • It is celebrated by the Western Church.
  • Many churches hold Ash Wednesday services where as part of the service ashes, in the shape of the cross, are placed on the foreheads of the attendees.
It's interesting in my searching on the meaning of Ash Wednesday I discovered some religions believe that act of placing the ashes on the forehead is to remind one of death and of the sorrow he/she should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing his/her life. Another said it is a sign of repentance. I think there is a subtle but important difference in these two views. The first to me is a negative way of thinking. Almost an attitude of defeat and failure. Something which looks more to the possible wrath and judgment of God. The second is more hopeful. An attitude of humility and confession. It looks to God's promise of forgiveness and love. I choose the second view point.

  • Ash Wednesday celebrations are thought to have been first mentioned in the 8th century. One of the first mentions of it's practice is found in the writing so an Anlgo-Saxon abbot Aelfric (955-1020).
  • Though Ash Wednesday as a practice is never mentioned in the Bible, the use of ashes in a ritual of repentance is mentioned. The most well know instances of it are found in Job and in Jonah. Jesus makes mention of it in Matthew 11:21.
  • As the ashes are placed on the forehead the minister or priest often will say something similar to "remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return." These words can also be found in the bible Ecclesiastes 3:20.
So yes, I will attend our churches' Ash Wednesday service tonight. I will take part in the imposition of ashes. I will confess my sins before God and then also I will celebrate with those others present the Eucharist, Holy Communion. In this celebration I will remember the love God has for us all. A love so deep that he sent his only son, Jesus, to bear the sins of the world. To bear the sins of my confession. He did so that I might be forgiven and be made right with him and that I can be in fellowship with him. This is the Good News!

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