What is Ash Wednesday and Its Meaning

Ash Wednesday is the the day that Lent begins for Catholicswhich are the forty days before Holy Week, which begins on Palm Sunday.

This celebration does not have a fixed date in the liturgical calendar, therefore it varies from year to year and is celebrated between the months of February and March, just after Shrove Tuesday and six weeks before Easter.

Ash Wednesday is a special day for Catholics in which fasting and abstinence must be put into practice, to begin the forty days of penance in which Catholics seek to purge their sins and dedicate time to God.

The use of ashes derives from an ancient Jewish custom in which people who had sinned used to cover part of their body with ashes. It was a way of showing his desire to get away from evil and get closer to God.

This tradition was modified to the one currently practiced, in which the faithful attend Mass on Ash Wednesday on their own initiative and in an attitude of reflection to reconnect with God during Lent.

The ash that is used for the imposition of the cross on people’s foreheads derives from the incineration of the branches blessed during Palm Sunday of the previous liturgical year.

During the imposition of ashes, the priest pronounces one of the following phrases, in order to remember that life on earth is ephemeral and that definitive life is found in heaven:

  • “Remember, that dust you are and to dust you will return”.
  • “Repent and believe the Gospel.”
  • Grant us, Lord, forgiveness and make us pass from sin to grace and from death to life.
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On Ash Wednesday, any person, baptized or not, even faithful believer or not, can receive the imposition of ashes. Likewise, it is not a day of obligation, that is, obligatory, nor is it necessary to have recently confessed.

See also:

  • Palm Sunday.
  • Lent.