Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

My extended families are Catholic and I often went with my grandmother to mass but I never went forward to have ashes put on my forehead. It didn’t really mean anything to me, just more tradition.

As I get older and search for the meaning behind the tradition it becomes more enriching an experience to participate in. I found the following explanation that sums it up better than I could.

“Putting ashes on our heads as a form of penitence is a practice inherited from Jewish tradition. In Old Testament times, fast days expressed sorrow for sins and the desire to make atonement to the Father. Ashes, for Jews and Christians alike, are a sign of repentance, sorrow, and mourning.

The King of Nineveh believed the prophecy of Jonah and fasted forty days wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes to save the city, and ordered the people to do so, too [Jonah 3:4-10]. Jeremiah calls Israel to “wallow in ashes” of repentance [Jeremiah 6:26]. Abraham speaks of being unworthy to speak with God because he is “but dust and ashes” [Gen 2:7] — being man, he is created from dust. Jesus also refers to this symbol in Matthew 11:21, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

I have lots to repent for, be sorry about and mourn. Life is hard. There are so many times when I lack the ability and strength to do what I really want to do. So much to think and pray about.

Here’s a good prayer as we begin this holy season.

protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
make this day holy by our self-denial.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. +Amen


Posted on February 9, 2005, in Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Today is also the first day of the Year of the Wood Rooster, Chinese New Year #4703. Repentance is great, but if it doesn’t birth something new — new attitude, new behaviour, even a new lease on life — well, then it’s as ephemeral as the ashes.

    So I think the coincidence of days is a good one.

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