Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 1- Ash Wednesday

Genesis 3:19 "…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Many churches all over the world will mark the beginning of Lent today with a service including the "marking" of Christians with ashes in the form of the Cross of Christ. This day, known as Ash Wednesday, used to begin a season of 40 days of deadly serious penance. It included a type of fasting far stricter than most diets today, embracing the absence of all life’s pleasures and enjoyments. We will experience some samples of that sort of fasting later in our 40 Day Adventure. There is evidence that marking the face with ashes began in Gaul in the 6th century and was at first confined to public sinners doing penance for notorious sin. The clergy tried to offer grace and compassion by submitting to the same public humiliation. For our spiritual ancestors, the people of Jewish and other Near Eastern cultures, wearing ashes was a sign of mourning and lamenting. Ashes were usually associated with sackcloth, which was the clothing worn to mourn the death of a loved one.  Ash Wednesday challenges us to reflect on our own death so that we can truly embrace life. The mark of ashes reminds us that only by a Christ-like death can we experience the promise of life found in the resurrection.

If you have the opportunity to attend an Ash Wednesday service and receive the implementation of ashes, them by all means do so.  It can be an amazing moment of reflection and connection with Jesus.  If you can't, I would suggest that you mark yourself with the Cross of Christ, whether with ashes or some sort of (washable) marker.  There is something cathartic about being seen in public with that black cross marked on your forehead. It screams to the world of your love for Jesus, and it stirs your own soul.  Whatever your situation, take a moment and remember what the cross symbolizes.  May the love and grace and Jesus wash over you as you worship.

He Is Risen!


  1. There's also a kind of weightiness that having a cross marked on one's forehead as oppose to a t-shirt that says "Jesus Saves" or "Body Piercing saved my life." As awesome as some of those are, there is a level of maturity and dedication in the Ash Wednesday tradition. Thanks for sharing :-)

  2. Great comment, Justapen! I agree. I'll never forget going to Walmart after my first Ash Wednesday service, not sure exactly what I was supposed to do with the black stuff on my head, but I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to rub it off. Carl, you know I didn't grow up in the mainline church, so there's a lot I still don't know. Thank you for sharing the history of this tradition. I'm excited to be joining you in this 40-day journey.

  3. Thanks for joining in the conversation, guys. I think you are both so right- there is a level of dedication in the ashes that doesnot exist anywhere else. And Jason, I think part of the reality is not quite knowing what to "do" with them. Great stuff my friends.


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