Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent–a time in which people traditionally choose to give up an activity or behavior that’s distracting them from God.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Throughout Lent, many Christians choose to prepare themselves (through prayer, repentance, and reflection) to celebrate Easter, the commemoration of Christ’s resurrection.

Lent is a quieter event than most other holidays—it calls us to personal reflection rather than to outward celebration. You may have seen people walking around with an ash mark on their foreheads today—many Christians choose to mark Ash Wednesday with a cross-shaped mark of ash. For some people, Lent is also a time of self-denial, in which they choose to give up something (anything from a certain type of food to a personal habit) as a way to help them focus on the meaning of the season.

Ash Wednesday, in the Western Church, the first day of Lent, being the seventh Wednesday before Easter. On this day ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful to remind them of death, of the sorrow they should feel for their sins, and of the necessity of changing their lives. The practice, which dates from the early Middle Ages, is common among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Episcopalians, and many Lutherans; it was also adopted by some Methodists and Presbyterians in the 1990s.

Here is a scripture that is read sometimes when the ash is placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross.

Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

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."

Erin O'Malley

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