Video:What Is Ash Wednesday?with Scott P. Richert
Want to learn more about Ash Wednesday and its significance to Catholics? Check out this video from About.com for more on the tradition of Ash Wednesday.See Transcript
Transcript:What Is Ash Wednesday?
In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
Facts About Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday always falls 46 days before Easter. Since Easter falls on a different date each year, Ash Wednesday does, too. While Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on this day in order to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.
What Happens on Ash Wednesday?
During Mass, the ashes which give Ash Wednesday its name are distributed. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday; many churches ask their parishioners to return any palms that they took home so that they can be burned.After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the faithful come forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person's forehead, says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return".
The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility. The Church emphasizes the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat.
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