Ash Wednesday starts the Season of Lent. It takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday (40 fasting days, if the 6 Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded)and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.
This year 2018, Ash Wednesday is marked on 14th February, 2018.
The ashes which gives it the name “Ash Wednesday”, are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. the faithful come forward to receive them. After blessing the ashes, the faithful approaches the priest, who dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person’s forehead, says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” (or a variation on those words).
The readings used during Ash Wednesday is the same for the three liturgical years of the church (Year A, B and C).
- First Reading: Joel 2:12-18
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 50:3-6,12-14,17
- Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
- Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
The colour used during Ash Wednesday Mass is Purple.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RECEIVING THE ASHES.
When Jonah gave the people of Nineveh the message from God about their destruction in 40 days, the wore sackclothes, sat on ashes, prayed and fasted as a sign of their repentance(Jonah 3:1-10).
Following the example of the Ninevites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief (2 Samuel 13:19), the grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults (Job 42:3-6, Jeremiah 6:26, Daniel 9:3).
As a means of repentance, submission to God and prayer for victory, the Maccabees prepared for battle using ashes (1 Maccabees 2:47; 3:39).
The ash symbolizes the dust from which God made us.
The ashes applied on the foreheads are a visible symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the church and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. By wearing the ash, we acknowledge that we are sinners,and are ready to repent
The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.
While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
OBSERVANCES DURING ASH WEDNESDAY
The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat. Catholics who are over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Ash Wednesday.
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- Ash Wednesday- http://www.catholic.org/lent/ashwed.php
- Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church- https://www.thoughtco.com/ash-wednesday-in-the-catholic-church-542463
- Ash Wednesday-wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday