Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you will return; this is a common saying heard across churches on
Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the begging of the Lenten season for many
practicing Christian religions and the start of the forty days of fasting and
prayer. But why are ashes so special we create a whole day around them, what do
ashes symbolize in the church?
In the bible ashes traditionally
symbolize penance, the asking of forgiveness for our sins, and death. In the
old testament sackcloth and ashes were used to symbolize ones mourning or repentance.
Someone wanting to show his repentant heart would often wear sackcloth and sit
in ashes. This practice became a public show of repentance when Jonah went to
Nineveth and declared to them that god was going to destroy them for their
wicked ways, the people responded with great fear of Gods might and clothed
themselves in sackcloth and sprinkled themselves in ashes to show God they can
change and were thankful for his mercy (“Ash Wednesday – Easter / Lent –
Catholic Online,” n.d.). Ashes also play a significant role in signifying death in
the Bible the book of Genesis 2:7 reads, “Then the Lord God formed the man from
the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils,
and the man became a living person.” Later in the book of genesis the bible
reads, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to
the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust
you will return,” Genesis 3:19 (Service, 2015). These two versus represent the people’s
repentance from sin and Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death to set us free from sin and death.
The traditional symbol of the cross that is marked upon people’s forehead is
placed there to be reminder of the season and why we choose as Christians to
practice the holiday (Fairchild, n.d.). Christians practice
to not only ask for forgiveness but to remember that Jesus forgave everyone and
made man fee by dying on the cross for our sins.
Wednesday is a widely celebrated religious holiday that bring many people
together in a time of reflection to show that we are all sinners and must ask
for forgiveness. That no one person is perfect, but that we all come from the
same earth and will eventually be laid to rest in the same earth, but in order
for your spirit to live forever you must except the lord and his forgiveness of
your sins. The practice of the holiday brings together many aspects of religion
and helps shape our definition of what it means to be in a religion. Ash
Wednesday brings people together, has a ritual practice of wearing the ashes,
and is a narrative of many bible stories for reflection.