There are many Christians who do not know why those of us of the Roman & Anglo Catholic tradition observe this day. It is my hope that this article will not only enlighten you but encourage you to observe the Lenten season as a time of refreshing.
Ash Wednesday is the 7th Wednesday before Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. The name comes from the ancient practise of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, representing a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. While it foreshadows the mourning at the death of Christ, it also places the worshipper in a position to realise the result of sin. Ash Wednesday is meant to be a serious day of reflection for the Christian on what needs to change in his or her life to fully embrace Christ-likeness.
Historically, in the early church, ashes were not offered to everyone. This was reserved for those worshippers who had made a public confession of sin and sought to be restored to the fellowship of the community at the celebration of Easter.
Over a period of time this practise changed and the imposition of ashes was extended to the entire congregation in services very similar to those that are now observed in the liturgical Christian churches on Ash Wednesday.
Ashes symbolise an attitude of penitence reflected in several passages of scripture such as the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”. [Luke 11:4- NIV].
During the Lenten season I hope that you will meditate on and study the following psalms that reflect the season of Lent: psalms 95, 32, 143, 102, 37, 35, 42, 43, 138, 29, 61 and 68. I choose the psalms simply because all Christian have a love for these scriptures. I trust that new insights will be gained from purposefully reading and meditating of these readings.
R Cecilia Askew
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