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What’s Ash Wednesday all about?

What is Ash Wednesday?

Although Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation (as are Sunday Masses, Christmas, and other such Celebrations), it is a very important part of our faith since it marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a season of the Liturgical Year–or, Church Year–where Catholics strive to grow closer to God.

Why are our foreheads marked with a cross?

In the Bible, having a mark on one’s forehead symbolized belonging to someone. At Ash Wednesday, we mark our foreheads with a cross to remind us that we belong to Jesus Christ, who died on a Cross for our sins.

Why is the sign of the cross done with ashes?

In the Bible, ashes symbolized mourning, grief, and penance. Ashes also symbolize death and remind us that we are mortal.

When the priest imposes the ashes on the faithful, he says, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3: 19), which is based on God’s words to Adam.  It is also based on Abraham’s confession: “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18: 27) and the words used during burials: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

The ashes remind us that we will someday die, and that we must repent before this life is over.

Where do the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from?

The ashes, which are blessed by a priest, are made by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

During Palm Sunday, we remember how people rejoiced by waving palm fronds when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Jesus died shortly afterwards.

By using the palms from Palm Sunday, we remember that we must rejoice that Jesus came but also regret that he had to die for our sins.

Ash Wednesday Schedule

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