Ash Wednesday News
February 21, 2012 by staff
Ash Wednesday News, Ash Wednesday signifies the beginning of Lent, and is traditionally a solemn time of reflection for Christians. It is the begining of the Lenten season of prayer and fasting. Lent has roots in both the Old and New Testaments, recalling both the 40-day period during which Christ was tempted while fasting and praying in the desert, in addition to Moses’ repentance for 40 days following the Israelites’ creation of the golden calf idol. Not all Christian churches observe Ash Wednesday, but many do, and that includes several churches in Washington and Holmes Counties.
The ashes used during these services are derived from the burning of palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. According to an article from the American Catholic website (http://www.americancatholic.org), the practice of using ashes made from leftover palms has been known since at least the 12th Century. The ashes are traced, often in the shape of a cross, across parishioners’ foreheads. The ashes serve as both as a symbol of penance and a sign of one’s mortality, reminding worshipers that they came from dust, and to dust they shall return. In ancient times, ashes were used as a sign of repentance and mourning. There are several instances of Biblical prophets urging people to repent by covering themselves in ashes. Remnants of that tradition can still be seen today during Ash Wednesday services. Pentiential readings from the Psalms may be read during services. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, prayer and meditation.
People commemorate Ash Wednesday in different ways. Says Rev. Ward S. Clarke, Jr., the vicar of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Chipley, it’s not only a good time for solitary inner reflection, but to come together as a Christian community. “Especially during Lent, we come to realize that we’re far from being perfect, and it can be important to rely upon one’s spiritual community. It can be helpful to share our experiences. It’s a very good time to pray and read Scripture together.” In some historical Christian congregations, Lent was very much a community affair. It was a time when Christians joined together as a group to pray and fast on behalf of new converts, who were often brought into the church at Easter Vigil. Easter Vigil, the day before Easter Sunday, is still a popular time for conversions and baptisms in some Christian denominations.
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