Ash Wednesday Introduction 2016
ProLifeCorner- Today all throughout the world, Christians of many denominations will start a 40 day period of fasting and prayer. A dear friend of the ProLifeCorner sent us his introduction to this most holy season. To some Christians who do not practice Lent, hopefully this introduction will provide a little deeper understanding of this holy season. If practicing Lent is not part of your tradition, and this introduction makes sense to you, please join us on this holy journey for a more personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.
Ash Wednesday Introduction
Today, the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
Lent has three major themes: repentance, purification, and growth. These three themes are exemplified very appropriately by the use of ashes.
The religious use of ashes is found in the Old Testament books of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jonah, Judith, Maccabees, and others – all of which stress repentance.
Jesus, in the New Testament refers to the use of ashes as a sign of repentance in St. Matthew and St. Luke’s gospels.
In the Christian Church, ashes were first used liturgically as early as the 6th century in Spain, when gravely ill persons were marked in the sign of the cross with ashes as a sign of repentance.
Ash Wednesday first appeared as the first day of Lent in the 10th century and became widespread as the first day of Lent in the 11th century, by decree of Pope Urban II.
There are two other particular properties to ashes which are relevant to Lent: first, at one time ashes were used to make soap – hence the purification theme; and secondly ashes serve as a powerful fertilizer for farmers when new crops are planted – hence the growth theme.
Ashes will be distributed after the homily. The blessing and distribution of ashes replaces the penitential rite,(see below*) so when I skip the penitential rite, it’s done intentionally according to the western rite.
Also during Lent, the “Gloria” is omitted, except for the Solemnities of St. Joseph on March 19th and Our Lord’s Annunciation on March 25th.
The “A” word – alleluia, is also omitted in Lent – my liturgy professor in the seminary regularly warned us that there is a very special place in Purgatory for priests, deacons, and religious who use the alleluia word in Lent.
* Penitential rite is a prayer that many Christians say in the early part of the Mass in which we acknowledge to God that we are sinners and ask for His forgiveness.