Symbols of our Faith 5- Ashes
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Symbols of our Faith #5

Ashes on Ash Wednesday

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This week, many Christians throughout the world will begin their Lenten fasts by attending an Ash Wednesday service, and by receiving the imposition of ashes.  The ashes have marked the start of the faithful's Lenten fast since the 10th century at least, with some evidence that a similar practice can be traced back to the fourth century. (http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/orthodox-ash-wednesday) Often they are made by burning last year’s palms from Palm Sunday, or can be purchased “pre-burnt" from church supply companies.  When we come to the altar and receive the mark, the priest says, “remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return,” inviting us to repent and receive God’s forgiveness while we have breath still to breathe.  

 

Ashes have a long Biblical history, and were used to express deep sorrow and grief.  We find it in several places, most especially in Job, where he “repents in dust and ashes.”  The prophet Jeremiah cals for repentance and for the people to “roll in the ashes,” and Jesus references the practices at least two times in the New Testament.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday)

 

With the imposition of our ashes, our time of Lent traditionally focuses in three areas: prayer, fasting, and alms giving.  These tried and true ways come to us through the centuries as paths to a greater walk with God.  It is with self-examination that we find God is God, and we are not; from there we confess our sins, receive God’s promised forgiveness, and begin to live life in a new direction. 

 

"Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great

devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a

season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided
a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

 

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer." (BCP) 

 

 

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