Even though Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation it is still one of the most popular devotions of Catholics and marks the start of Lent.
Lent is traditionally used as a period of purification and preparation before an adult would be Baptised at the Easter Vigil. In the early Church, the candidates, as well as other penitents (people repenting) would spend all forty days in sackcloth and ashes to symbolise their fallen sinful nature. This would make the change into the dazzling-white Baptismal garments all the more defined, clearly symbolising the journey from sin to redemption, from ashes to glory, made possible by the Easter story. Over time, this practice has been reduced to simply receiving the mark of ashes on our forehead in the shape of the Cross.
By receiving this sign we acknowledge that we are in a bit of a mess, that we are not perfect, and that we have made mistakes – yet it also affirms that we are God’s mess, claimed by the love of God shown on the Cross.
As we receive our ashes, may we remember we are loved by God just as we are.
Let us pray that all might receive these ashes and know that they are loved by the Father: Our Father…
Action: Abstain from meat and fast (two small meals and a third no bigger than the other two combined)