Ash Wednesday is a sacred day of prayer and fasting Christianity ushers in the beginning of Lent and happens 46 days before Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday is officially known as the Day of Ashes and is marked as a day of repentance when Christians especially Catholics confess their sins and affirm their devotion to God.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of Christians, especially Catholics, wearing a cross of ashes on their foreheads. The ash is placed there by a priest or minister in the shape of a cross as a symbol acknowledging death, sin committed in the past, and the dust from which we were created.
How is the Ash Wednesday ceremony conducted?
During Mass, the priest puts the ashes on a faithful’s forehead in the shape of a cross. This signifies that the worshipper professes his belief in Jesus.
When the priest applies the cross of ashes, he says to the person, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (From Genesis 3:19). He may also say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
The ash symbolizes both death and repentance for the sins for which Jesus sacrificed his life on a cross. During this period, Christians show repentance and mourning by fasting, worshipping, and abstinence from bodily pleasures.
Ash Wednesday is significant for Catholics as it marks the start of the Lenten period leading up to Easter Sunday when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.
How is Ash made?
Palm is of special significance to Christians. Palms are used on Palm Sunday in churches to represent Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Sunday before his crucifixion. Jesus was welcomed by people waving palm leaves after he spent 40 days and nights fasting in the desert. Therefore, the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are gathered and burned and used as ashes for the current year’s Ash Wednesday.
Read more: Holy Thursday
How is Ash Wednesday celebrated?
Ash Wednesday is a solemn day marked by prayers and fasting. Feasting and eating meat are strictly forbidden. It is preferred if the faithful remain home, and avoid leisure activities.
It is not mandatory for a faithful to wear the ashes for the rest of the day, and they may be washed off after Mass in the Church.
When is Ash Wednesday in 2023?
Ash Wednesday falls on a different day each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter which is calculated on the cycles of the moon. It can fall between February 4 and March 10.
In 2023, Ash Wednesday will be celebrated on Wednesday, February 22.
What is Lent?
Ash Wednesday is one of the holiest dates on the Christian calendar as it marks the start of the important season Lent. Lent is the season of penitential preparation that precedes Easter Sunday.
It spans six weeks of fasting or self-sacrifice, prayer, and almsgiving observed by Catholic Christians each year to prepare for the celebration of Easter when they believe Jesus was resurrected three days after his death by crucifixion.
Though there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, Lent is only 40 days long. Now, let’s know why.
Sundays are always not counted. So that leaves 6 days in a week. Lent lasts for 6 weeks so that means 6 weeks x 6 days = 36 days. If we add Wednesday to Saturday, it will be 40 days.
Read more: Palm Sunday
History about Ashes
Application of Ashes has a long history in many pagan traditions and Hinduism. Many experts believe that Jesus spent his time in India learning spirituality. One of the many traditions and practices he copied was the application of ashes on a forehead.