Published On: Wed, Mar 1st, 2017

What is Ash Wednesday? What is Lent? Why are they practiced?

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, and the first day of Lent.

Lent is 40 fasting days before Easter, observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics.

As Jesus began his ministry, He fasted for 40 days in the desert, tempted by Satan. Read Matthew 4: 1-11, Luke 4: 1-13 or see the reference in Mark 1: 13. Here Jesus refutes the temptation with quotes of Old Testament scripture.

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,'” Jesus says to Satan, refuting the call to turn a stone to bread, quoting Deut. 8:3. He quotes Deut. 6:16 “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,'” when Satan tries again. After one more try, Jesus rebukes Satan entirely: Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” (Deut. 6:13).

photo/Jesus Christ Messiah Origins cover

Ash Wednesday begins, this time of Lent is to purify one’s relationship with Christ, sacrificing as He did, rebuking temptation and drawing closer to God.

The name Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Many Christians give up something close to them, a struggle that they have (such as eating fatty foods or cursing) during Lent and strive to Repent, or “turn away from,” this controlling sin in their lives.

On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, adults Latin Catholics in good health, are to eat one heavy meal  and avoid red meat and fowl. This is a time of focus and preparation for the adoration of Christ during the Easter season.

Ray Hollenbach summarized it perfectly: “Ash Wednesday is about preparation, and the beginning of preparation at that. All of the Lenten season is focused upon preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday is about how we can begin those preparations. It is ‘to make a right beginning of repentance…”

“Ash Wednesday is the day when the journey toward Easter begins. I would like to suggest that Ash Wednesday helps us begin our preparation for Easter in three ways: by teaching us to mourn the past, to examine the present, and to look forward toward an inspiring future.”

In the medieval period, the day before Ash Wednesday was the required annual day of confessing one’s sins and receiving absolution and instructions on the penances to be performed during Lent, the reason it was called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove Tuesday became Fat Tuesday – a tied to Mardi Gras.


photo Simon Dean Media via Flickr

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. Mary says:

    In the paragraph above, you did not mention Episcopalins! We also observe ‘Lent’, and, from what I know, we are really close to Catholics, in our beliefs!

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