10 Feb 2016
MASS TIMES with the distribution of ashes:
8:30 AM & 6:00 PM
Ash Wednesday falls on February is a special time when Christians worldwide begin to prepare for Easter — the celebration of Christ’s resurrection — through fasting, repentance and prayer. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter. During this period, believers are encouraged to focus on spiritual renewal and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins. History and Meaning While there is no specific mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible, the practice of repentance and mourning in sackcloth and ashes is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. The prophet Daniel speaks of seeking the Lord for the release of his people from Babylonian exile with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (Daniel 9:3). Jonah 3:6 states: “When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” Additionally, Matthew 4 speaks of Jesus’ period in the Judean Wilderness, where He spent 40 days and 40 nights in solitude, prayer, and fasting. Thus, the forty days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan. Monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.”
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of believers as a sign of repentance and humility. While the day was originally observed by the Catholic Church, it now extends to Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestant denominations. Oftentimes, religious leaders will mark the foreheads of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, while speaking the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Traditionally, worshippers choose to leave the ashes on their foreheads for the remainder of the day as a witness that all people are sinners in need of repentance, and that through Christ, all sins are forgiven through faith. Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or volunteering and giving of themselves for others. While some observers abstain from food, other believers make personal vows of abstinence during this day, such as refraining from meat or chocolate, vowing not to gossip, or practicing greater humility.