Ash Wednesday is an annual religious event in Christianity that marks the beginning of Lent, which is a 40-day period (sans the Sundays) marked by fasting, repentance and ultimately celebration.
This year, Ash Wednesday will be celebrated on February 26, 2020. On this day, the faithful visit churches and have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. The 40-day season culminates to Easter Sunday.
History of Ash Wednesday
The term ‘Day of Ashes’ comes from “Dies Cinerum” in the Roman Missal and can be found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. The concept originated amongst the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century.
There is no mention of Ash Wednesday or Lent in the Bible. But the tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence predates Jesus.
By the 11th century, the practice was widely accepted throughout the church, until the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, threw the practice out in the 16th century because it was not based on the bible.
Significance of Ash Wednesday
As the Clergy all around the world draw the cross of ashes on the forehead of believers, they remind them of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”.
The time of reflection and penitence represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted while Satan tempted him.
Lent asks Christians to set aside a period each year for similar fasting, in order to focus on Christ’s life, his sacrifice, and resurrection.