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.
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- Broad Brook Bible Study Examiner, Grace Dooley
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- Kentucky Bible Study Examiner, Timothy Edwards
- Bible Verse of the Day
- Daily Bible Guide
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series
If you enjoyed this bible study, you can find more at Sharon's Columbia Biblical Studies Examiner homepage.