Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Lent occurs 46 days (40 days not counting Sundays – Sundays are a time for thanksgiving) before Easter. This little bit of information would have been good when I was a kid. When I was little my parents didn’t know about Sundays not counting as days of fasting, so we had to fast for 46 days instead of 40 (which as a kid wanting TV, candy, or whatever was given up that year, was very difficult).
Ash Wednesday is a day of abstinence (fasting, no meat, no sex, no alcohol) and repentance. People who are between the ages of 18 to 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no snacking in between (unless you are pregnant, have some medical or health condition). Children over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of believers as a sign of repentance and a public sign of their faith. When the ashes are placed on the person’s forehead the priest says one of the following: “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19), “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15), or “Repent, and hear the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
The statement “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” has always stuck with me. It is a powerful statement reminding us of our mortality, where we came from and shall return. It is a truly humbling and powerful statement that instils both humility and the fear of God. For me it helps me to contemplate my life, sins and realign me to my ultimate goal – heaven.
During this time of Lent we should reflect on the words that the priest says while placing the ashes on our foreheads and in our fasting be drawn closer to God and turn away from sin.
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