The Meaning of Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is the first day in the Christian season of Lent and begins about 40 days before Easter.
The 40 days of Lent represent Jesus' time in the desert and the 40 years the Israelites spent in exile after the Exodus.
In the Bible, the number 40 is symbolic of A LOT!
So what are the ashes all about? The ashes, traditionally the burnt palms from last year's Palm Sunday, are worn by Catholics and other Christians as as sign of repentance, humility, and renouncing pride which is why, when ashes are distributed, it's proclaimed;
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."
The history of wearing ashes, symbolically goes back to the Old Testament "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear. But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job42:5-6 NKJV). We don't wear ashes to proclaim our holiness, but to acknowledge that we sin and are in need of repentance and renewal.
Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, a day just for Catholics. Ash Wednesday is the day when many Christians focus their attention on three practices; Fasting, praying Almsgiving!
Why do we FAST?
Depriving ourselves of a basic necessity reminds us of our utter dependence on God. (By the way... the money saved from fasting should be given away to the needy.)
Why do we GIVE?
What we are given by God is not meant just for us, but for us to share with others for the service of others.
Why do we PRAY?
We are not totally self-sufficient. We have a need inside of us that cannot be filled by ourselves or others. We have a longing, a Holy longing, and must look to God.
The mythical American hero is the Lone Ranger ---independent, self-made, alone. But closer to the Biblical definition of a hero might be Tonto, the Native American. He is part of a tribe, community minded and dependent.
Without community, you cannot be enriched by others nor can you enrich them. Only through the context of community may we continue to find a relationship with God.
So that, my dear brothers and sisters, is what Ash Wednesday is all about:
May you have a very enlightened experience as you mature in your Spiritual growth to a new awakening during this Lenten season.
Love and Blessing!
~ One Love ~