Once the month of February or March rolls in, there is always a day in which people walk around with an ash cross on their foreheads. Not only does this mean it’s Ash Wednesday—it also signifies the start of the Lenten season.
But what is Ash Wednesday, and why is it important? Is it okay to wash the ash cross off? My Pope hopes to enlighten with these answers.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday is considered as one of the most important days in the liturgical calendar. Taking place 46 days before Easter Sunday, Ash Wednesday significantly marks the beginning of the Lenten season as it serves as a time for us to “reflect on our sins, correct our faults, and purify our hearts” (TheCatholicSpirit.com).
How is Ash Wednesday celebrated?
One of the most notable practices during Ash Wednesday is the wearing of ash crosses on one’s forehead. Although it is not required to wear the ashes for the rest of the day, many still keep these until the evening to remind them of the start of the Lenten season. Feasting, dining out, or shopping during this holy day is also considered by many as inappropriate. Some of the faithful would even take the day off and stay home to celebrate this season.
Who celebrates Ash Wednesday?
The administering of ashes is done by priests during Mass celebrations. Anyone–even non-Christians and the excommunicated–are welcome to attend these Masses and receive the ashes as a visual sign of their repentance.
What do the ashes signify?
The ashes that are administered during this holy day comes from burning the blessed palms that were used during the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. Blessed with holy water and scented by exposure to incense, these ashes symbolize how God made us from dust, and that “to dust we shall return,” reminding us to keep a humble heart as our life here on earth is just temporary.