4 things to Know About Ash Wednesday

4 things to Know About Ash Wednesday



We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

William Johnston / The Conversation

For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from AD 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “ in sackcloth and ashes ,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent , during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase , “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.

Deployed US Marines, soldiers observe Ash Wednesday.

2. Words used when applying ashes

A 12th-century missal , a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist , indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The phrase echoes God’s words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These were Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is, when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

  • Why Were The Shrove Tuesday Riots So Brutal?
  • Is the Universe Only 6,000 years old? Young Earth Creationists Say Yes!
  • The Fascinating Catacomb of Saint Agnes, a Young Christian Martyr Who Died for her Beliefs

Pot ash used in the Ash Wednesday ceremony.

3. Two traditions for the day before

Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “ Shrove Tuesday ,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday has inspired poetry

In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God’s “silent Word” in the world:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent

If the unheard, unspoken

Word is unspoken, unheard;

Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,

The Word without a word, the Word within

The world and for the world;

And the light shone in darkness and

Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled

About the centre of the silent Word.

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.


4 things to Know About Ash Wednesday - History

Asian Americans top target for threats and harassment during pandemic

/>The First Australians grew to a population of millions, much more than previous estimates

/>Cash, COVID-19 and church: How pandemic skepticism is affecting religious communities

/>Cancel culture looks a lot like old-fashioned church discipline

/>How could a Belgian farmer accidentally move the border with France? It's surprisingly easy, as history shows

/>82% of Americans want paid maternity leave – making it as popular as chocolate

/>The problem with online learning? It doesn't teach people to think

Curbs on press freedom come with a cost, new research reveals

/>Not two different worlds: QAnon and the offline dangers of online speech

Unemployment and conflict: how COVID-19 has affected women in Morocco

Anti-Asian violence: Mental health check-ins on your friends isn’t enough

/>Robots are coming and the fallout will largely harm marginalized communities

/>Selfie culture: what your choice of camera angle says about you

/>Obituary: TB Joshua, Nigeria's controversial Pentecostal titan

What Homer's 'Odyssey' can teach us about reentering the world after a year of isolation

/>IQ tests: are humans getting smarter?

India prepares for Kumbh Mela, world's largest religious gathering, amid COVID-19 fears

4 things to know about Ash Wednesday

US Navy employees receive the sacramental ashes during an Ash Wednesday celebration. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 2:04 PM UTC

For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead &ndash a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries &ndash from A.D. 200 to 500 &ndash those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one&rsquos faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying &ldquoin sackcloth and ashes,&rdquo as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church&rsquos public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, &ldquoLet us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,&rdquo as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that &ldquoon Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.&rdquo It&rsquos been going on ever since.

2. Words used when applying ashes

A 12th-century missal, a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist, indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: &ldquoRemember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.&rdquo The phrase echoes God&rsquos words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God&rsquos command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: &ldquoRepent, and believe in the Gospel.&rdquo These were Jesus&rsquos words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is, when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

3. Two traditions for the day before

Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name &ldquoMardi Gras,&rdquo or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one&rsquos sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name &ldquoShrove Tuesday,&rdquo from the verb &ldquoto shrive,&rdquo meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday has inspired poetry

In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot&rsquos poem &ldquoAsh Wednesday&rdquo reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God&rsquos &ldquosilent Word&rdquo in the world:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.


1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from A.D. 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “in sackcloth and ashes,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.


4 things to know about Ash Wednesday

(AP) – For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from A.D. 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “in sackcloth and ashes,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.

2. Words used when applying ashes
A 12th-century missal, a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist, indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The phrase echoes God’s words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These were Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is, when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

3. Two traditions for the day before
Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday has inspired poetry
In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God’s “silent Word” in the world:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/4-things-to-know-about-ash-wednesday-112120.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


3. Two traditions for the day before

Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.


4 Things About Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is literally marked on the forehead of observant Christians. To start off the Lenten journey, I have gathered a few misconceptions and things I was not aware of earlier in my Catholic Faith Journey.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is literally marked on the forehead of observant Christians. During Lent, the Church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.

To start off the Lenten journey, I have gathered a few misconceptions and things I was not aware of earlier in my Catholic Faith Journey.

Is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation All Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday in order to begin the Lenten season with the proper attitude and reflection, Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation.

It’s A Day of Fasting Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. Unlike fasting in some religions, which require abstaining from all food and drink during fast dates, Catholics are permitted to eat one full meal and two smaller meals. Read here for the differences between abstinence and fasting.

Where does the Church get the Ashes? Ashes are from the Palm branches of the previous Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ return to Jerusalem when he was greeted by crowds waving palm branches. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are burned palm branches mixed with holy water or oil.

You MUST keep the Ashes on ALL day Wearing ashes throughout the day on Ash Wednesday helps us remember why we received them in the first place. Those who feel uncomfortable wearing their ashes outside of church, or if they get in the way of your daily duties, should not worry about removing them. Also, if your ashes naturally fall off, or if you accidentally rub them off, there is no need to be concerned.

I do not claim to be nor am I a Catholic Expert . I am your average Catholic exploring the Faith and sharing things I have learned throughout my journey. I’ve included links to help you read explore into each subject and beyond. If you have further questions regarding the Church, I highly recommend you talk to a Priest, Deacon or other person of authority and proper training.


5. There are rules about what you can eat on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting. For many Christians, that doesn't mean abstaining from food completely. Instead, observers of the holy day should limit themselves to one whole meal plus two smaller meals that, when added up, don't equal a meal they would eat on a normal day. Christians marking Ash Wednesday should also avoid eating meat like they would on Fridays during Lent. (Filet-o-fish is still fine to eat, though.)


4 things to know about Ash Wednesday

(AP) – For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from A.D. 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “in sackcloth and ashes,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.

2. Words used when applying ashes
A 12th-century missal, a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist, indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The phrase echoes God’s words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These were Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is, when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

3. Two traditions for the day before
Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday has inspired poetry
In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God’s “silent Word” in the world:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/4-things-to-know-about-ash-wednesday-112120.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


3. Two traditions for the day before

Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggsand even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.


4 things to know about Ash Wednesday

(AP) – For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus is a pivotal event commemorated each year during a season of preparation called Lent and a season of celebration called Easter.

The day that begins the Lenten season is called Ash Wednesday. Here are four things to know about it.

1. Origin of the tradition of using ashes
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians have ashes put on their forehead – a practice that has been going on for about a thousand years.

In the earliest Christian centuries – from A.D. 200 to 500 – those guilty of serious sins such as murder, adultery or apostasy, a public renunciation of one’s faith, were excluded for a time from the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony celebrating communion with Jesus and with one another.

During that time they did acts of penance, like extra praying and fasting, and lying “in sackcloth and ashes,” as an outward action expressing interior sorrow and repentance.

The customary time to welcome them back to the Eucharist was at the end of Lent, during Holy Week.

But Christians believe that all people are sinners, each in his or her own way. So as centuries went on, the church’s public prayer at the beginning of Lent added a phrase, “Let us change our garments to sackcloth and ashes,” as a way to call the whole community, not just the most serious sinners, to repentance.

Around the 10th century, the practice arose of acting out those words about ashes by actually marking the foreheads of those taking part in the ritual. The practice caught on and spread, and in 1091 Pope Urban II decreed that “on Ash Wednesday everyone, clergy and laity, men and women, will receive ashes.” It’s been going on ever since.

2. Words used when applying ashes
A 12th-century missal, a ritual book with instructions on how to celebrate the Eucharist, indicates the words used when putting ashes on the forehead were: “Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The phrase echoes God’s words of reproach after Adam, according to the narrative in the Bible, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.

This phrase was the only one used on Ash Wednesday until the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. At that time a second phrase came into use, also biblical but from the New Testament: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These were Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry, that is, when he began teaching and healing among the people.

Each phrase in its own way serves the purpose of calling the faithful to live their Christian lives more deeply. The words from Genesis remind Christians that life is short and death imminent, urging focus on what is essential. The words of Jesus are a direct call to follow him by turning away from sin and doing what he says.

3. Two traditions for the day before
Two quite different traditions developed for the day leading up to Ash Wednesday.

One might be called a tradition of indulgence. Christians would eat more than usual, either as a final binge before a season of fasting or to empty the house of foods typically given up during Lent. Those foods were chiefly meat, but depending on culture and custom, also milk and eggs and even sweets and other forms of dessert food. This tradition gave rise to the name “Mardi Gras,” or Fat Tuesday.

The other tradition was more sober: namely, the practice of confessing one’s sins to a priest and receiving a penance appropriate for those sins, a penance that would be carried out during Lent. This tradition gave rise to the name “Shrove Tuesday,” from the verb “to shrive,” meaning to hear a confession and impose a penance.

In either case, on the next day, Ash Wednesday, Christians dive right into Lenten practice by both eating less food overall and avoiding some foods altogether.

4. Ash Wednesday has inspired poetry
In 1930s England, when Christianity was losing ground among the intelligentia, T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” reaffirmed traditional Christian faith and worship. In one section of the poem, Eliot wrote about the enduring power of God’s “silent Word” in the world:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word.

Ellen Garmann, Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy at University of Dayton, contributed to this piece.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/4-things-to-know-about-ash-wednesday-112120.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.