Ash Wednesday is a Big Day and Some of the Reasons Why

This coming Wednesday, March 2, is our Ash Wednesday Service at 6pm. It is one of the most special times of the year. Why is Ash Wednesday so special? There are numerous reasons. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The day signals new spiritual practices beginning for 40 days. The 40 days is FOLLOWING the same steps of Jesus, who spent 40 days in the wilderness before His Kingdom ministry. Likewise, following a plan for 40 days can lead us to new spiritual vitality as we prepare for Easter!

Ash Wednesday also sparks a lot of questions. So let me seek to answer some of the questions that may be on your mind.

How long is Lent? 40 days or 46 days?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. If you count the days, you will discover that there are actually 46 days. So, why do we say 40 then? In the early church tradition of Lent, they considered Sundays as "little Easters," therefore they were subtracted. So, 46 days minus the 6 Sundays of Lent gives you a total of 40 days.

Why does the date of Ash Wednesday change each year?
The date of Easter changes every year, and thus the date of Ash Wednesday also changes with Easter. The date of Easter is pre-set on the calendar for many years as you want to look ahead.
How is the date of Easter determined?
In A Primer for Church Worship, Hoyt Hickman explains, "you may have wondered why Easter falls on a different date each year. Like the Jewish Passover, it is determined by the moon's phases. Early Christians debated the proper date for the Pascha. They agreed in the fourth century that it, unlike the Jewish Passover, must always be celebrated on Sunday so that the weekly and yearly celebrations of Jesus' resurrection reinforce each other. Easter in western Europe came to be observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the first day of spring, which can place Easter as early as March 22 or as late as April 25. This is how Roman Catholics and Protestants still date Easter."

What is the significance of Ashes Imposed on Ash Wednesday?
"The use of ashes is a sign of mortality and repentance and has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. The imposition of Ashes can be a powerful nonverbal and experiential way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation." (United Methodist Book of Worship) The Ashes are imposed on the forehead or top of the hand with the words "remember you are dust, and to dust, you will return. Repent and believe the good news of Jesus." Ash Wednesday is one bookend that begins remembering our need for repentance and remembering our mortality. And the other bookend, we proclaim the glorious, good news of new life and resurrection!
What does it mean to give up and add things for Lent?
The giving up of something for personal discipline is traditional for Lent, as well. One common practice may be the giving up of certain foods during Lent. Or it may be a decision to give up something like television or Facebook and free up time for spiritual practices. In giving up things, we make more room for God. As we give up things, the 40 days of Lent become a great time to add new habits. What can we add to our life to bring us closer to Jesus? We ask our congregation to consider adding the FOLLOW ME 40-day discipleship plan this year. This plan includes a daily scripture and theme relevant to FOLLOWING JESUS.

Why observes Lent?
One of the reasons to have a season of Lent is to follow through the teachings and life of Jesus at least once a year. This means each year, we will FOLLOW the steps of Jesus through the wilderness, the teachings of the Kingdom, miracles, and revisit the life of Jesus with His disciples. The taking of time to recall and revisit the events in the life of our Lord add meaning leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. In short, we prepare our hearts each year for the good news of Jesus's victory over death, sin, and evil. And the weeks of Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter mean all the more. Our goal is to follow the steps of Jesus to become more like Jesus each day. Lent prepares us and helps us grow as disciples.

Well, I hope this article added some meaning to your Ash Wednesday! I look forward to seeing our church family on Ash Wednesday and starting this
40-day journey of FOLLOWING HIM together!


Philip McVay

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