Ash Wednesday Meaning and the Start of Lent

Jesus in the garden

Jesus in agony over our sins

If you wish to learn more about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent then just read this article all the way through to the end.

Lent  is the forty day season in the Church’s calendar which serves to prepare Christians (through prayer, fasting and almsgiving) for the ‘feast of all feasts’ the most important octave in the Christian year, Easter.Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent (the day after the pancake party on Shrove Tuesday (-meaning to ‘shrive’-have a penance for commiting a sin)  where people feast the night before Lent).Each year the date for Ash Wednesday changes but it’s always a Wednesday! The date changes because Easters changes each year.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians from all over the world prepare to contemplate and imitate the ‘suffering servant’ of Isaiah, Christ in ways ways suited to their health and age.

We remember the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert where he was tempted three times by the devil and overcame him.

The 40 days in the desert were the preparation period for Jesus’ public ministry and miracles and after this his next stop was the Wedding Feast of Cana and the abundance of wine!

At Cana, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, heralded in His Messianic Mission with her request to help the soon to be embarrased wedding couple!
Mary too, ushers in many miracles in our lives if we ask her to intercede with her Son who can refuse her nothing, since she refused him nothing whilst on earth!

In this important liturgical season of Lent, Christians try to fast from food, cigarettes or TV and other things they enjoy uniting these offerings with the sacrifices and sufferings Jesus underwent for us, not least in His Passion.

Regarding sacrifices, they need to ‘cost’ a little bit. For example, I hate liver, so if I fasted off liver it would be no sacrifice. Our offerings also need to be carried out with love for the Lord in our hearts and each other-it’s no good if we’re fasting and feel self righteous, puffed up and better than others in the process-No, becoming fasting police is not for true Christians. Each one must decide according to his conscience. 

Why Sacrifice?

There are many reasons for sacrifice but those made for love of him who loved us and ‘gave himself up for us’ on the Cross strengthen our love for Jesus and they purify us to receive more of the light of Christ in our hearts so we can bring forth the Kingdom on earth.

Love grows in the fires of sacrifice and self denial for the good of others as any good parent will know.

As well as giving up things, Christians also aim to ‘give’ in the form of increased almsgiving or giving up more of their time to help others or to pray more.

The soul therefore, by denying the body (the fleshly life in us) becomes spritually stronger and nourished.

As we live in such a materialistic culture our souls which need food just as our flesh does are often starving so Lent gives our souls a nourishing transfusion of spiritual food to keep them strong in Christ!

what is hell
Christ gave everything up for us! We can surely give up some things for him?

Also, like Jesus in the desert, Christians conquer temptations such as selfishness, pride and unloving behaviour with God’s grace and during Lent they make more of an effort to do this.

These temptations come to us from many avenues and in many ways. Some we invite in through impure material and others come to us unawares and catch us off guard. Sometimes friends with ‘bad’ connections are the source of troubles for us in the spiritual realm.

Therefore“prayer, fasting and almsgiving” sum up the keys we need for good Lenten practice.

Why Ash Wednesday?

Christians attend Church services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent and at the service, the priest or pastor marks the believer’s forehead with a cross of ashes (the ashes come from burned blessed palms used the year before on Palm Sunday.

The Cross on our foreheads in the sign of the New Covenant of God with man when Jesus was crucified for us and it serves to remind us of sacrifice and that we are dust but also have an immortal soul.


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