Ash Wedesday

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the forty-day period day Lent in the liturgical calender. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by many denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, and even some Baptists. Ashes are placed on the foreheads of the celebrants in the shape of a cross, hence the name. The ashes are traditionally from the palms from the previous Palm Sunday after they were burned. As Lent is a period of repentance and fasting, the ashes symbolize sorrow for the sins committed.

As I said, Lent is a period of fasting, though few people actually fast for forty days. Generally Christians who take part in Lent abstain from meat on Fridays and give up some favorite thing, a favorite food or habit.

Ash Wednesday is a movable fast because always occurs forty-six days before Easter which is also movable.The forty days are a reminder of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. Lent ends on Holy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.

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4 Responses to “Ash Wedesday”

  1. Justin Hoffer Says:

    Two problems.

    1. 40 days is a heck of a long time to fast unless you plan on doing nothing.

    2. Early Christians likely used numbers symbolically, the same way the Hebrews did when writing the Torah. The number 40 and denominations of 40 were used to signify a number of generations. It was not only used when counting years, though. It could and would have been used to signify “a generation of days”, possibly meaning 20 days.

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    • David Hoffman Says:

      I should have read the wikipedia article more carefully and be more clear in my writing. The “fast” generally involves eating only bread and water or abstaining from meat, etc, rather than going without any food. I understand the requirements in earlier times were fairly strict. These days Catholics only go without meat on Fridays during Lent.
      You’re right in that the forty days is meant symbolically. The forty days of Jesus’s fast correspond to the forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.

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  2. Justin Hoffer Says:

    Only bread and water? Sounds painful!

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  3. Giving it Up for Lent « David's Commonplace Book Says:

    […] mentioned last Wednesday that it is common for Catholics and others to give up something for Lent. Most people choose to […]

    Like

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