Ash Wednesday: Its Meaning in the Christian Calendar

Catholic faithful worldwide began the 40-day Lent period on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, ahead of the Easter season, where they will celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Lent season that mainly focuses on the Christians heart on prayer and repentance starts with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, therefore, marks the first day of the 40-day Lent period and is the preparation, culminating with the Holy Week, which celebrates the Passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.

 By smearing ashes on the believer’s forehead accompanied by the words that ‘you are dust and unto dust you shall return’, the priest puts an emphasis on mortality and the need for repentance. Christians are also asked to participate in acts of charity and alms giving. By helping the poor, vulnerable, the sick, and even those imprisoned and sharing with them the mercy of God, as they strive to mend their relationship with God, fasting should be accompanied by works of mercy. Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting and is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence. During the celebration, the Christians had ashes applied on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, followed by the words ‘you are dust, and unto dust you shall return’. The ashes are obtained by burning the palms used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. Palms are used on Palm Sunday in many Christian churches to symbolize Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion. Residents of Jerusalem are said to have waved palm fronds to celebrate his arrival…

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