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Ash Wednesday Reflections

Ash Wednesday Reflections: The Beginning of Lent

As we prepare for the Lenten and Easter seasons, many people will head to a special church service for the Imposition of Ashes. Ash Wednesday is a significant reminder in the life of the Church, drawing our attention to the miraculous rising of Jesus Christ on Easter. This year, Our Little Roses poses some Ash Wednesday reflections that will help you deepen your prayer life. 

Learn more about how this ancient practice can set the stage for you to celebrate the revelation of Easter Sunday in just forty days. 

Where Does Ash Wednesday Originate? 

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The mark of the ashy cross on the forehead is actually a clear reminder of what the Old Testament reminds us of in Genesis 3:19: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This symbolic meaning of the ashes is prevalent throughout the Old Testament. Ashes are used to mark repentance, an outward sign of an inward transformation. Oftentimes, ashes were used in uncertain times as Biblical figures sought guidance from God.

For example, Daniel used ashes and fasting when Israel was taken into captivity by Babylon. The people were scattered far from the place where the Lord dwelled among them in Israel. Daniel repented for their human condition. Ashes, sackcloth, and fasting were his first reaction to the tumultuous times that lay ahead. 

While he did not get the answer he wanted, he did hear from the Lord and committed himself to long-term fasting. 

In modern days, Ash Wednesday marks a period of fasting with the Lenten season leading up to the Easter holiday. It is a current version of the fast and repentance that Daniel was seeking. Ash Wednesday serves as a time to prepare a clean heart before celebrating the resurrection. 

Today, the church often leaves the mark of the ashy cross on the forehead of congregants who confess their sins and want to mark the beginning of the fast. The ashes used are created from burning the palm leaves of the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration. 

While the origins of this day can be traced back to the 11th century, it wasn’t added to the liturgical calendar until the year 325 at the Council of Nicaea. So what does that mean for our holy season and the church traditions that many of us follow?

How Christians Should Approach Ash Wednesday

With some of these historical Ash Wednesday reflections, it begs the question: how should we now approach this practice? It is still a call to remember Genesis 3:19 and to mark our mortality and inherent sinfulness during this day with prayer. However, our prayer resources can help you to maximize your experience of Ash Wednesday. 

It is best to embrace this as a day of reflection and deep prayer. It should be focused on your repentance for the sinful nature of all human life. While some people may take the time to sit in a church pew, others will mark the day quietly by simply reading daily Scriptures at home. 

It should not be a day of obligation but rather one of a willing heart. 

This is also the time to consider what true prayer looks like in your life. Ash Wednesday is about more than just the cycle of church seasons. You should choose something you will fast from until Easter arrives and the celebration begins. It need not be a beautiful prayer, but it should be heartfelt and sincere.

Some church leaders will place the ashes on the forehead. However, many Christian churches do not follow this practice. Unlike taking Communion, the administering of ashes is not considered one of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. 

Committing to a Day of Prayer

Evangelical churches that celebrate Ash Wednesday often do so in light of the story of Easter. It is a reminder that there is a brighter future coming when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. This is a great time to deepen your spiritual and devotional practice. 

While there are no official church prayers for the Ash Wednesday service, you can turn to examples of ancient prayer as a model for how you should communicate with the Lord on this holy day. The Psalms are a great starting point for deeper prayer as the psalmists expressed real emotions and confessed the holiness of God. 

Psalms 32, 51, and 86 are all excellent examples of this ancient practice. 

You may also learn quite a bit from the spiritual practice of the early saints. Augustine of Hippo has great examples of true prayer in his writings. You may also find inspiration in the written prayers of more modern-day believers like John Wesley and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

While there are no exact guidelines for your devotional practice, there is a lot you can learn from historical models. 

preparing for lent ash Wednesday

Commit to Your Ash Wednesday Reflections

Ash Wednesday is a part of age-old Lenten practices, and it is a great way to kickstart the Easter season. While not every church will adhere to this spiritual practice, it calls us to repent and refocus on the reason for this celebratory season in the Catholic and Christian churches. 

At Our Little Roses, we celebrate the many ways that Jesus Christ has made us new. We acknowledge that following his teaching can show us how, together,  we can break the chains of poverty and oppression. Every day, we see the power of the Gospel message helping our girls overcome their histories and forge a new life for themselves and their families. 

This Easter season is a great time to partner with Our Little Roses to make a difference in the lives of our girls through a generous donation. Donations allow us to continue providing a loving home for the at-risk girls in our Honduran community. Donate today or sponsor a girl. Your support allows us to help them obtain a brighter future!