What is Ash Wednesday 2023 and What does it Symbolize?
Ash Wednesday 2023, in Christianity, is the first day of Lent and it occurs six and a half weeks before Easter which is usually between February 4 and March 11, depending on the date of Easter.
A solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season which is observed with ashes and fasting.
Did you know?
Eastern Orthodox churches begin Lent on Clean Monday and therefore do not observe Ash Wednesday.
What is Ash Wednesday?
- Ash Wednesday is a holy day where believers pray and fast in many Christian denominations.
- It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday.
- Ash Wednesday falls on the first day of Lent which is six weeks of penitence before Easter.
- Many Christians attend special church services, where they receive ash on their foreheads in prayer.
- Ash Wednesday derives its name from this practice, which is accompanied by the words, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return."
- Palm leaves are burnt to prepare these ashes from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations.
Ash Wednesday: History
- Earlier It was the practice in Rome for penitents and grievous sinners to begin their period of public penance on the first day of Lent.
- It commemorated the preparation for their restoration to the sacrament of the Eucharist.
- Back then they were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and obliged to remain apart until they were reconciled with the Christian community on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.
- These procedures were dismissed during the eighth to the tenth centuries.
- In modern observations, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent was symbolized by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation.
Ash Wednesday is a mandatory day of abstinence & fasting ❤️🔥 pic.twitter.com/o10EdWC1TW— Pray The Rosary (@PrayTheRosary12) February 22, 2023
Ash Wednesday Significance:
- Believers in Christ around the world observe Ash Wednesday as a time for prayers, acts of charity, and mortifications.
- It is also the period when the faithful practice good deeds, such as almsgiving, and be particularly close to the needy and the suffering.
- On Ash Wednesday, priests apply ash on the forehead of each person coming to the Church, saying - 'Thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return'.
- Easter concludes the 40 days period of fasting - Lent. Holy Thursday - the celebration of Jesus's last supper and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday is a part of the Holy Week which ends on Easter Sunday.
Ash Wednesday Fact:
In the early Christian Church, the length of the Lent celebrations varied, but eventually, it began six weeks (42 days) before Easter. This provided only 36 days of fasting (excluding Sundays). In the 7th century, four days were added before the first Sunday in Lent to establish 40 fasting days in imitation of Jesus Christ's fast in the desert.
Biblical significance of Ashes
- In ancient times , ashes were used to express grief. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying" (2 Samuel 13:19). The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. Ashes could be symbolic of the old sinful self dying and returning to the dust.
- In Job 42:5–6, Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
- The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26).
- The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).
- Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes" (1 Maccabees 3:47; see also 4:39).
Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: "If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes."
How Is Ash Wednesday Observed?
- In most Churches, the ashes are obtained by burning the palms used on the previous Palm Sunday.
- The ashes are applied in the shape of a cross on the forehead of each worshiper.
- On Ash Wednesday it is required for one to fast and perform abstinence not just physically but spiritually letting go of everything that corrupts the soul according to the holy word.
ALSO READ|Easter Festival 2023: When, Why and How is it celebrated?
World Thinking Day 2023: Date, Theme, History, Significance, Celebration & More