Ash Wednesday

I’ve never been one to celebrate ‘traditional’ holidays that date back to the 900s. And I’ve never been one to observe Catholic rituals. After all, much to my poor mother-in-law’s chagrin, I’m not Catholic.

Of course, the Catholic Churches aren’t the only ones dusting their foreheads in ash on this good Wednesday. Many other denominations will be participating in this ritualistic act of repentance.

Truly I am no scholar and I have not a single hour of theology beneath my belt, and to be honest, I may have heard of Ash Wednesday, but only in passing. This time last year was the first I had actually participated, and for the life of me I can’t remember the events of the evening.

My first question whenever I come across a religious ritual is to see if it has any Biblical basis.

Job said in reply to the Lord: I know that You can do everything, That nothing you propose is impossible for You. Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge? Indeed, I spoke without understanding of things beyond me, which I did not know. Hear now, and I will speak; I will ask, and You will inform me. I had heard You in my ears, But now I see You with my eyes; Therefore, I recant and relent, Being but dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6 (JSB)

Verse 6 in the NIV says: Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.

Of course this is an Old Testament account. It seems to me as if Ash Wednesday is a take on the Jewish Yom Kippur, the 10th day of the Jewish High Holy Days. It’s a day filled with fasting, prayer and repentance. Where the Jewish culture seeks repentance before God on the last day of their Rosh Hashanah (New Year), the Christian culture does so prior to a time leading up to the Passion. The forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are supposed to represent the time Jesus spent in the desert before he began the gathering of his disciples.

Obviously the number 40 means something in Biblical terms. For Noah it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years and Jesus spent 40 day in the desert being tempted by Satan (Mark 1:13), but that is something to delve into for another day, maybe even tomorrow.

So according to traditions what are the next 40 days supposed to include? Prayer, repentance, taking care of the poor and denying one’s self.

Shall I go into that now? No, I think I’ll save that one for tomorrow, too.

Tonight I will attend Ash Wednesday with some of my favorite people. How about you? How will you spend this day? What does Ash Wednesday mean to you?

Happy Ash!

2 responses to “Ash Wednesday”

  1. Thank you for this explanation of what Ash Wed. is, how it relates to the time period of Lent before us, and then leads up to Easter.

    I appreciated it!

  2. Reblogged this on Christina Rich and commented:

    As I looked at the calendar and realized Ash Wednesday was approaching a certain sadness came over me. New Life, the church where we attended an Ash Wednesday service last year, no longer exists. And I don’t know of any other churches holding service. But that is okay. On Sunday, Pastor Tim, at the new church we are attending, spoke on this very thing. No, not about Ash Wednesday, but on doing without. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, God has been speaking with me about doing away with things. Gaining self-control over my desires, like chocolate and Pepsi as well as several other things. It’s not so much about doing without as it is self-discipline. Whenever I had a craving for a Reese’s my reaction was immediate, there was no denying, and if for some reason I couldn’t sink my teeth into that chocolate covered peanut butter, I’d become grumpy.
    I had no discipline whatsoever. So, on Sunday, knowing my tendency to be wishy-washy when it comes to good intentions. I made a choice to do without for two reasons. One, to practice self-discipline. Two, for my health.

    Now, to the blog I posted a year ago.

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