Remember O’ man you are dust and to dust you shall return’ ~ Genesis 3.19
The above Bible verse explains what is Ash Wednesday in a subtle sense. The Ash Wednesday is also known as Dies cinerum, that means, Day of Ashes. It marks the start of Lent and continues for 46 days before Easter. If you do not take Sundays into consideration, then it occurs for 40 days. People fast during these days as a mark of repentance and penitence.
What is Ash Wednesday
According to Western Christianity, the first day or start of Lent is marked by Ash Wednesday. Lent is the period when Christians get ready for Easter. During the 40 days of Lent, one observes fast and becomes spiritually disciplined. Lent is observed by Christian denominations that include the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican as well as the Roman Catholics. Eastern Orthodox denominations do not observe Ash Wednesday and begin Lent on Monday.
Ash Wednesday is said to be a day of repentance. It is said, in ancient times ashes were used to mourn. People dusted themselves with ashes and expressed their sorrow regarding the sins they committed. This was a way of penitence and also expressed in the bible verse:
“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” ~ Job 42:3-6
Ash Wednesday marks the start of the wandering of Jesus Christ in the desert to fast and pray. It was during this time of wandering, he was tempted. It ends on Easter Sunday, the day Jesus Christ was resurrected from death. When the ‘paschal’ full moon appears in the sky, that is the first full moon that rises on or after the vernal, or spring equinox, Easter Sunday is celebrated.
A Mass is held on Ash Wednesday and ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the faithful. If the person is a clergy, the ashes are imposed on the tonsure spots. The priest or minister makes a mark in the shape of a cross on the forehead of the faithful. This mark is not washed off and retained till it wears off on its own. While making the mark, the priest or minister may speak the following verses:
Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. ~ Genesis 3:19
Repent, and hear the good news. ~ Mark 1:1
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. ~ Mark 1:15
People fast on this day and observe abstinence from meat and repent one’s sins and faults committed. People between the age of 18 years to 59 years who are healthy enough are permitted to consume one full meal by the Roman Catholic church. Some people fast for the whole of Lent period and end their abstinence after Easter Vigil.Hope all ‘ye faithfuls’ have learned some useful information about Ash Wednesday 2011 from the above paragraphs.
(Written by Batul Nafisa Baxamusa. Originally published: 2/25/2011, http://www.buzzle.com)