Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

"Remember, O man: Thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."
Genesis 3:19

Believers who use the Christian Calendar to guide religious observance (Roman Catholics, Anglicans, many Methodists, most Lutherans, and others) are beginning Lent today, Ash Wednesday. The following is an explanation of the observance:
Lent consists of the forty days before Easter. In the Western Church, we skip over the Sundays when we count the days of Lent, because Sunday is always the joyful celebration of the Resurrection. Therefore, the first day of Lent in the Western Church is always a Wednesday.

....ashes became a sign of remorse, repentance, and mourning. Today someone might wear a black armband to signify that they are in mourning; back then people put ashes on their foreheads.

You can find biblical examples of this in 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1-3, Job 42:6, and Jeremiah 6:26. During Lent, ancient Christians mourned their sins and repented of them, so it was appropriate for them to show their sincerity by having ashes on their foreheads. The custom has persisted in the church as secular society has changed around us.

It is most appropriate on Ash Wednesday, when we begin a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection. Whether or not the Calendar guides our own practice [and it was certainly not designed with the Sabbath in mind], the period leading to Good Friday is an appropriate time to engage in sober reflection about God's grace in Christ, our unworthiness, and a renewal of our commitment to holy living.
Source: Why ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that Thou hast made,
and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent;
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The Book of Common Prayer
, 1559

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