Skip to main content
  1. Life
  2. Religion & Spirituality
  3. Western Religions

Lenten Meditations 2014: Ash Wednesday

See also

Today’s bible study is Matthew 6:16-18: Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Today, ashes will be applied to the foreheads of many Christians to signify their inner repentance. But what is the history and the meaning of this holy Christian day?

The earliest description of Ash Wednesday is found in the writings of Aelfric of Eynsham. Around the year 1000 he wrote: We read in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. 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.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians come to the altar to receive the ashes, prior to the sacrament of Communion. The minister or priest applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each, while speaking the words: For dust you are and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19).

Many Christians choose to leave the ashes on their forehead for the remainder of the day. They do it to show that all people are sinners in need of repentance, and that through Jesus all sins are forgiven by faith.

Ash Wednesday, like the season of Lent, is never mentioned in Scripture and is not commanded by God. Christians are free to either observe or not observe it. It is more likely to be observed in the more liturgical traditions. It also should be noted that the ashes are meaningless, unless they are accompanied by inner repentance and a change in behavior.

As we enter this holiest season of Lent, may we be ever mindful of our own transgressions and shortcomings. May we repent as we receive the ashes and begin our own Lenten fasts. And most of all, dear heavenly Father, make us ever mindful of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

You might also like to read:

Follow Sharon on Twitter or Facebook.

If you enjoyed this bible study, you can find more at Sharon's Columbia Biblical Studies Examiner homepage.

Advertisement

Life

  • Dan Savage
    Dan Savage cares about LGBT youth, bullying and saving lives
    Today's Buzz
  • Raku
    Teachers and students can use this summer to learn a new skill
    Camera
    15 Photos
  • Beach body
    Fitness: Earn your beach body badge with bootcamp classes
    Camera
    10 Photos
  • Greek wine
    Unwind with these delicious wines: The thrilling wines of Greece
    Camera
    7 Photos
  • Mandy Moore
    Exclusive interview with Celebrity Mandy Moore concerning animal activism
    Camera
    5 Photos
  • Educational family vacations
    Find out how to take an educational family vacation that doesn't break the bank
    Camera
    9 Photos