Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar.
Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer.
Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.
Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance.
Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. Even non-Christians and the excommunicated are welcome to receive the ashes. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year’s palm Sunday Mass.
Spiritually, I view it as a reminder from God or the Divine about being a Soul on this earth living a physical life. We are all here to learn life’s lessons as they are presented to us and go about fulfilling our life purpose. This period of Ash Wednesday through Easter is a tine for reflection, prayer and meditation. Are you learning the lessons that life presents to you? Do you seem to have situations where you’re presented with the same basic situations over and over again? What choices could you make differently?
We all have a limited time on this planet. Let us make the best choices we can and lead with our hearts and not our heads. I believe that “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” refers to our physical bodies. When the body gives out, our Souls will all be welcomed back by God!