The Significance of Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting which falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter.
It was the practice in Rome for penitents to begin their period of public penance on the first day of Lent in preparation for their restoration to the sacrament of the Eucharist.
They were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and obliged to remain apart until they were reconciled with the Christian community on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.
When believers come forward to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, it signifies that they are sorry for their sins
They want to use the season of lent to correct their faults, purify their hearts, control their desires and grow in holiness so that the believers will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy.
With this focus on the believers’ mortality and sinfulness, Christians can enter into the Lenten season solemnly, while also looking forward in greater anticipation and joy of the message of Easter and Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.
Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of human mortality and the need for reconciliation with God and it marks the beginning of the penitential Lenten season, it is commonly observed with fasting.
The beginning of the penitential season of lent was symbolised by placing ashes on the heads of the entire congregation.
In the modern Roman Catholic Church, the ashes obtained by burning the palms used on the previous Palm Sunday are applied in the shape of a cross on the forehead of each worshiper on Ash Wednesday which is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence.
Although, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it is traditionally one of the most heavily attended non-Sunday masses of the liturgical year.
Worship services are also held on Ash Wednesday in Anglican and some other protestant churches.
Ash Wednesday is important because it marks the start of the Lenten period leading up to Easter, when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.
The ashes symbolise both death and repentance.
During this period, Christians show repentance and mourning for their sins, because they believe Christ died for them.
As an important religious observance in the Christian world, Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the Saviour and Redeemer.
It is an opportune time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Ash Wednesday starts the Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession.
Lent is a forty day season, Sundays not usually counted as there are no fasting on Sundays, marked by repentance, fasting, reflection and ultimately celebration.
As Christians begin Ash Wednesday today, it is necessary that the three pillars of Lent should be paramount in the mind of Nigerians namely fasting, alms giving and prayers.
Through fasting, the power to overcome all temptations is showcased while alms giving connotes that the less privileged individuals benefit from the resources of the rich.