why do we celebrate ash wednesday catholic
Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too. Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person's forehead, he speaks the words: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. "
Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, "Repent and believe in the Gospel. " Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance. Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. Even non-Christians and the excommunicated are welcome to receive the ashes. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year's palm Sunday Mass. It is important to remember that Ash Wednesday is a day of penitential prayer and fasting. Some faithful take the rest of the day off work and remain home. It is generally inappropriate to dine out, to shop, or to go about in public after receiving the ashes. Feasting is highly inappropriate. Small children, the elderly and sick are exempt from this observance. It is not required that a person wear the ashes for the rest of the day, and they may be washed off after Mass. However, many people keep the ashes as a reminder until the evening. Recently, movements have developed that involve pastors distributing ashes to passersby in public places.
This isn't considered taboo, but Catholics should know this practice is distinctly Protestant. Catholics should still receive ashes within the context of Mass. In some cases, ashes may be delivered by a priest or a family member to those who are sick or shut-in. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. Following the example of the Ninevites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told "Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return. " Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion.
In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession. The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance. What is Ash Wednesday? Many people ask, "What is Ash Wednesday? " This primarily Catholic holiday is the first day of Lent and always falls forty-six days before Easter. What is the meaning of Ash Wednesday? Roman Catholic churches of the Latin Rite use this service to prepare church members to better appreciate the death and resurrection of Christ through self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Ashes from the burned palms of the preceding year's Palm Sunday are blessed. With these ashes, the priest marks a cross on the foreheads of worshipers, saying, "Remember, man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19 KJV). Besides showing sorrow for their sins, those who honor Ash Wednesday add an additional meaning; the need to prepare for a holy death. б Browse: Browse: Browse: Ash Wednesday has a non-Christian origin and was accepted into the beliefs of the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The council also settled upon the 40-day fast period as the standard length to celebrate Lent. б During this time period Even after the Council of Nicaea the beginning start date of Lent was still questioned.
In 601 Pope Gregory moved the beginning of Lent from the fourth Sunday of the year to Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter. This changed allowed for 40 days of fasting with six Sundays counted as feast days, for a total of 46 days for Lent. Pope Gregory also instituted the tradition of marking parishioners foreheadБs with ashes in the shape of a cross. Is Ash Wednesday Mentioned in the Bible? Ash Wednesday is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, however, from Biblical times, sprinkling oneself with ashes has been a mark of sorrow for sin. Several times the Bible mentions people repenting in dust and ashes; for example: Mordecai (Esther 4:1), Job (Job 42:6), the inhabitants of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-6), and Daniel (Daniel 9:3-4). Repentance in dust and ashes often was accompanied with fasting during Bible times. б The type of fast Jesus himself endorsed was the following, found in Matthew 6:16-18, "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,б so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Б Additionally, Isaiah 58:5-7 says, "Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? БIs this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Б Jesus is calling His followers to avoid making a show when fasting, but rather to help those in need. He is calling Christians to think externally in avenues of service, instead of only thinking internally toward themselves. The point of that matter is this; Jesus is interested in the condition of the heart and not merely external appearances or show. As you think about your life, repentance, and fasting where is your heart? Are you others focused or self focused? Do you desire to have true repentance and fasting as mentioned in Psalms 51 (especially verses 10-13, 17), or are your actions merely based on outward tradition? Should Christians Celebrate Ash Wednesday? As mentioned before, the Bible directly talks about repentance and fasting, but doesnБt mention Ash Wednesday specifically. Therefore, Christians are under no obligation to celebrate the holiday. The important fact to remember is that Christians should be ready and willing to repent, fast, and focus on God throughout the year and not just during the Lenten season. Additionally, Ash Wednesday is not a day of holy obligation, although Roman Catholics attend Mass on this day in order to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. The churches of the Anglican Communion, as well as some other Protestant churches observe Ash Wednesday. Eastern Rite churches, however, do not observe Ash Wednesday, their Lent begins on the preceding Monday.
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