Ash Wednesday marks the first day or the start of the season of Lent. Officially called "Day of Ashes," Ash Wednesday always falls 40 days before Easter (not including Sundays). This year Ash Wednesday will be observed on March 6.
Ash Wednesday is a solemn observance for the church as it marks the time when Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance,giving up of sinful habits, and spiritual refection and discipline.
During Ash Wednesday services, a priest distributes ashes by lightly rubbing the shape of a cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. The tradition of tracing a cross on the forehead is meant to identify the faithful with Jesus Christ.
Why ashes? Ashes are a symbol of death in the Bible. They are a reminder that God formed humans out of dust and they return to dust and ashes when they die.
"By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:19 )
To make the ashes, palm fronds are collected from the previous year's Palm Sunday services. The ashes are burned, crushed into a fine powder, and then saved. During the following year's Ash Wednesday the ashes are blessed and sprinkled with holy water by the priest.
When worshipers approach the altar to receive the ashes. A priest dips his thumb into the ashes, makes the sign of the cross on the person's forehead, and says a variation of these words:
"Remember that you are dust, and unto dust, you shall return," which is the traditional invocation from Genesis 3:19 .
By coming forward to receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday, Christians show their desire to repent of their sins and purify their hearts through spiritual reflection and discipline.
You're Invited to Ash Wednesday Services
- 7:00 a.m. - St. Mary's Chapel
- 12:10 p.m. - Nave
- 6:00 p.m. - Nave