Ash Wednesday is the First Day of Lent
Ash Wednesday takes place exactly 40 days (excluding 6 Sundays) before Easter Sunday, it will always fall on a Wednesday and is mostly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too. Its official name is “Day of Ashes,” so called because of the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of a cross.
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. The ashes are a “sacramental,” meaning they can be received or used by anyone, Catholic or not. The ashes are made from blessed palm branches, taken from the previous year’s palm Sunday Mass.
May the Lenten season be a fruitful journey that brings you closer to God and increases your spiritual prayer life.
The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance
1 For the leader. A psalm of David,
2 when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
3 Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
4 Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me.
5 For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me.
6 Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes. So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment.
7 Behold, I was born in guilt, in sin my mother conceived me.
8 Behold, you desire true sincerity; and secretly you teach me wisdom.
9 Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
10 You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice.
11 Turn away your face from my sins; blot out all my iniquities.
12 A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.
13 Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit.
14 Restore to me the gladness of your salvation; uphold me with a willing spirit.
15 I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.
16 Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God, and my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.
17 Lord, you will open my lips; and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
18 For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it; a burnt offering you would not accept.
19 My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.
20 Treat Zion kindly according to your good will; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
21 Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just, burnt offering and whole offerings; then they will offer up young bulls on your altar.