What you need to know about 'Ash Wednesday'
Alixandra Caole Vila (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2015 - 12:37pm

MANILA, Philippines – “Excuse me, why do you have dirt on your forehead?”

As we may know, every Ash Wednesday, Christians often walk around with a sign of a cross on their foreheads, but not everyone knows why this is done.

For this year, Lent begins on February 18 and ends on April 2. To enlighten you about one of the most important practices in Lent, here are quick facts about Ash Wednesday:

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday.

Where do the ashes come from?

Clergy all over the world dole out ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them.

How is the imposing of ashes done?

As the pastor or priest “impose” the ashes, they remind each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” This is what God told  Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit and fallen into sin.

Can someone other than a priest distribute the ashes?

Yes. The Book of Blessings states:
1659 This rite may be celebrated by a priest or deacon who may be assisted by lay ministers in the distribution of ashes. The blessing of the ashes, however, is reserved to a priest or deacon.

What do the ashes and cross symbolize?

The ashes they remind each penitent of their sins and mortality, and that there is a need to repent. The ash also serves as a reminder that our lives are short. The cross also reminds each repentant of the good news that through Jesus Christ crucified there is forgiveness for all sins, all guilt and all punishment.

Is "Ash Wednesday" meant to disrupt the spirits of the Christians?

Ash Wednesday is not a depressing holy day because it emblematically foresees Good Friday and Easter. “Fat Tuesday,” a secular observance that evolved out of “Shrove Tuesday,” a day for feasting, is observed the night before Ash Wednesday. It is usually marked by eating of pancakes or other sinfully sweet foods – before the solemnity and penance of Lent set in.

Can ashes be distributed to non-Catholics?

Catholics aren’t the only one putting marks on their foreheads. Today, most liturgical churches, including Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other Protestants observe Ash Wednesday.

Is "Ash Wednesday" written on the Bible?

Ash Wednesday is not written the Bible. But there is a tradition of putting ashes as a sign of penitence.

How long shall be the ashes kept on the forehead?

No one is required to keep the ashes on his or her forehead after the ritual.The imposition of ashes are of without value unless there is a consequent repentance and improvement of behavior.

Source: Religionnews.com

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