Christian Author: Nancy W. Boyer

Why Observe Ash Wednesday….and What is it?

Readers around the world may not understand some of the rituals of the Christian Church.  Because today is called Ash Wednesday, it may be good to help in this understanding.  The observance even varies from one Christian church to another.

“Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and it marks the beginning of Lent. Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express mourning.   Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults.”

I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that we all have faults, even if we do not always call them sins.   Most people know when something is considered a real sin.   So, why in the modern world… when we are asked to think on the positive, should we set aside 40 days for reflection, prayer, and being sorry for things done?   As mentioned, this day begins the forty days of Lent. Some take it lightly and joke about giving up  candy or a latte for this period of time. To others it is much more a serious matter.

Job,  who had suffered so many unbelievable things, said the following:

. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  (Job 42:2-6)

The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26).

The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God this way: “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting in the wilderness to His Father in heaven for the people of the world.

How does Ash Wednesday get its name?   It comes from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of believers as a sign of repentance before God.  These ashes typically are gathered from the palms used the year before at Palm Sunday, which is a celebration of Jesus riding into Jerusalem.   The palms are burned to make the ashes.   Some think of this as only a Roman Catholic practice, but it is also celebrated each year by those in the Episcopal and Anglican churches, as well as Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Baptist denominations.

Ashes are place on the forehead with the sign of a cross. (Released by the US Navy)

Does this Ash Wednesday, or any other Christian observance, forgive sins?

No, of course not, for it is not what we as believers do that forgives and gives eternal life.  Only Christ, our Savior, who died for our sins…taking our place…can forgive.   He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Jesus Christ  was not just another prophet as some of the major religions believe. His resurrection from the dead makes Him different.  His disciples who observed Him die on the cross also saw Him three days later very much alive.  Thomas, who was much like any of us, wanted to see proof.  He asked to actually see the nail prints in His hands and the scar on His side.  Yes, the resurrection, which is celebrated by Christians at Easter, is the only hope for our own resurrection.   The Apostle Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

By the way, for anyone who has not studied Paul’s writings in the New Testament, I would suggest that you do so.  Paul, first known as Saul and a powerful member of a Jewish group, had persecuted the Christians and actually held their robes while they were stoned.  God had other plans for him and later he found Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Hopefully, this writing has helped our non-Christian readers understand better some of the rituals of the Christian church.  Persecution of Christians is happening around the world today, especially the Coptic Christians.

It is important to pray for peace and understanding.  I am certain there are those in cyber-world who are searching for the truth.  You are wrestling, but God also has a plan for you.   Like it or not, we must remember that we are dust and to dust we will return.   It is important to be ready.

If you have any questions, please feel free to write to us at Boyer Writes.    boyerwrites@yahoo.com       We will try our best to answer any questions.

VIDEO FOR ASH WEDNESDAY AND THE BEGINNING OF LENT

Comments are closed.