This Wednesday marks the first day of March and the first day of Lent. Since Lent represents the time that Jesus spent wandering in the wilderness, it’s an understandably solemn time. While worshippers are encouraged to reflect upon their commitment to their faith and the community throughout the season, Ash Wednesday services place a special emphasis on mortality and sinfulness. That’s where the actual ashes come in.
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Usually, the minister recite these words while administering the ashes. Depending on the Mass, ministers will either sprinkle ashes over worshippers’ heads or use a blend of ash and holy water to rub the sign of the cross into their foreheads.
The ashes themselves come from the palm leaves that were blessed during Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) of the previous year.
Tradition holds that Christians wear ashes on the first day of Lent in order to mourn and acknowledge the suffering that Jesus endured. As a gesture, it represents a willingness to repent for your sins and purify your soul in preparation for his resurrection.
Worshippers may wash off their ashes right after services or leave them on for the rest of the day. Traditionally, it’s frowned upon to go out in public with your ashes on display, but nowadays it’s pretty common to do so.
Have a blessed Ash Wednesday everyone !