Having faith as a true believer, I was intrigued to get more background on Ash Wednesday. The following information is by Kelly Givens, contributing editor to Crosswalk.com. “Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. In 2022, Ash Wednesday falls on March 2. Ash Wednesday focuses the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession. Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter Sunday and marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is traditionally a 40-day fast (not counting Sundays) — a reference to the time Jesus spent being tempted in the desert — that seeks to prepare the heart of the believer for the solemn remembrance of Jesus’ death. It concludes and is followed by a joyous Easter Sunday celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
The History of Lent and Ash Wednesday
The history and beginnings of Lent aren’t clear. According to Britannica.com, Lent has likely been observed: “since apostolic times, though the practice was not formalized until the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.” Christian scholars note that Lent became more regularized after the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313. St. Irenaeus, Pope St. Victor I, and St. Athanasius all seem to have written about Lent during their ministries. Most agree that “by the end of the fourth century, the 40-day period of Easter preparation known as Lent existed, and that prayer and fasting constituted its primary spiritual exercises.”
Though Lent is not named or observed in the Bible, as Christianity Today notes, “the path of Lent—prayer, fasting, and generosity over a period of time—is heavily emphasized by the authors of and characters in the Bible, including Jesus. The Bible commands a lifestyle of worship and devotion that looks considerably like Lent. Therefore, while the word is absent in the Bible, the reality of Lent is woven throughout the whole of Scripture, as we have discovered.
Verses to Reflect on for Ash Wednesday
If you’d like to start thinking through and observing Lent and Ash Wednesday, here are a few verses specific to Ash Wednesday to meditate and reflect on, and then a prayer you can pray to observe the day.
- Our Creation: Genesis 2:7 - Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
- Our Curse: Genesis 3:19 - By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
- Our Cry of Repentance: Psalm 51:7- 10 - Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
1. The ashes remind us of our sinfulness.
2. The ashes remind us of our mortality.
3. The ashes demonstrate that without God all of us are spiritually dead.—We are redeemed by our God. They are a reminder that we need to repent for our sins and turn back to God.”
As in Genesis 3:19, God said to Adam, You are dust and to dust you shall return. Ashes remind us that the price of sin is death. We are mortal and our eternity reigns in God alone. (Interesting tidbit: the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from burning the blessed palm leaves from the previous Palm Sunday.) Also, ashes in the “Sign of the Cross” displays the good news of the Gospels.
Spread the Good news by wearing that “Ash Cross,” the bigger the better. Wear it proudly to proclaim the Good news of God’s love for all his people. Matthew 28: 19-20 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Ash Wednesday is a fitting way to start the season of Lent leading to Resurrection Sunday! Thank you, Jesus. Help us stay in your Light! Amen.
Your Sister in Christ, Gail Achilles