"...For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return."
- Genesis 3:19(b)
Today, as you go about your day, you might see something a bit strange on the foreheads of some of the people around you. You might think it is a smudge of dirt and suggest your friend go wash his or her face. In actuality, it is a cross drawn in ashes. Today is, after all, Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a tradition celebrated throughout many factions of Christendom, a day that marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. During this season, many Christians pray, fast and sacrifice something of perceived importance -- such as a favorite snack, trips to Starbucks, smoking or, for the more technologically addicted, Facebook -- as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross on Good Friday.
So what's the deal with the ashes, then? The use of ashes is actually quite an ancient tradition, with references to the use of ashes in times of mourning throughout the Old Testament. Lent is supposed to be a time of mourning, and the ashes merely signify the beginning of this season. The ashes are traditionally the burned remnants of the palms from the previous Palm Sunday, a day in Christianity that marks Christ's entrance into Jerusalem heralded as king shortly before His crucifixion.
The ashes are the most outward symbol of the traditions of today, but there are other traditions Christians might follow that you might not see. Some people will abstain from meat all day or at least fast between meals. Some will spend a great deal of time in prayer and confession, and of course many will go to a special church service where they receive the ashes.
While you might not be participating in Ash Wednesday services today, this is still a good day to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ and ask yourself if there is perhaps something you are willing to sacrifice during the season of Lent to remind you of His sacrifice on a daily basis.Are you participating in Ash Wednesday services today? Have you seen ashes on the foreheads of people around you and wondered what it meant? What are your thoughts on the traditions of Ash Wednesday? How are you partaking in Lenten traditions? Is there something you are giving up for Lent?