Ash Wednesday begins the Christian season of Lent as Christians look to the Passion of the Christ preparing to commemorate his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Millions of Christians around the world celebrated Ash Wednesday which comes 46 days prior to Easter and includes a 40-day period of fasting and prayer. Sundays during Lent are not included in the fasting.
These are some of the images from Ash Wednesday observances around the world.
In this image from 2012, a girl attends an Ash Wednesday mass in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, in India. Christians around the world observe the custom of receiving ashes on the forehead.
At La Merced church in Guatemala City, Guatemala a believer receives ashes at at 2013 Ash Wednesday service marking the beginning of the Lenten season.
Believers of all ages receive ashes at an Ash Wednesday service at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church in Ordot, on the island of Guam on March 5, 2014.
Recognizing that not all parishoners can make it to mass on Ash Wednesday, Father Jesus Cardona spent time on the highway in Bogota Columbia administering ashes to travelers on the morning of Ash Wednesday, 2014.
In the Ash Wednesday mass at the Santa Sabina Basilica on March 5, 2014, Pope Frances blesses the altar as the church prepares for the season of Lent leading up to Easter.
Receiving the Ashes
Christians around the world flocked to churches on Ash Wednesday which begins the season of Lent and preparation for the celebration of Easter. Many Christians use this time as a time of fasting and prayer.
Santa Sabina Church, Rome
Before leading mass on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis leads a procession at Santa Sabina Church in Rome. During his homily, the Pope said, "We know that this world, ever more artificial, makes us live out in a culture of 'doing,' of the 'useful,' where, without realizing it, we exclude God from our horizon, and we exclude the horizon itself. Lent calls us to 'wake up,' to remind us that we are creatures, that we are simply not God.”
Christians receive ashes on Wednesday as the priest typically says "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" or in some cases "Repent and believe in the Gospel." Christians wear the ashes the remainder of the day as a reminder and as a testimony. Here a man walks down Broadway after receiving the ashes on Ash Wednesday in 2013.
Sometimes Ash Wednesday is not just about devotion to God. In this photo, people held a candle vigil at Branches United Methodist Church in Florida City, Florida in 2013 to express hope for inclusive immigration reform. Some 1,120 candles were lit to symbolize the number of people deported from the United States on a daily basis.
Priest Assistants walk into Roh Kudus Church to attend Ash Wednesday ceremony on March 5, 2014 in Surabaya, Indonesia. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of pray and fasting before Easter.