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Ash Wednesday Explained (and Homily)



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ASH WEDNESDAY 2015

In this video, I explain a little bit about the history of Ash Wednesday and from where the ashes come.

The History
The practice of Ash Wednesday goes back to at least the 8th century. The ashes were placed on a person's forehead as an outward sign of repentance. The practice marks the fact that we are all sinners; yet, Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins.

During Biblical times, people would actually  sit in ash heaps or roll around in them as a sign of repentance. They would also sometimes put on sackcloth. It was a very humbling experience for many; yet, in the sight of God, we tend to realize our own imperfections.

Adam was formed and born from the dust of the earth in the book of Genesis. It is to that dust of the earth that we all will return once again. Also, Jesus's healing miracles sometimes involved using the dirt of the earth.

The Practice
On Ash Wednesday every year, the faithful are not asked to sit or roll around in ash. The priest or Eucharistic minister trace his or her thumb in the sign of the cross on the forehead of the Christian. One of the following responses accompany the signing of the cross:

  • Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19)
  • repent and believe in the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)
Both phrases that are used point to repentance, while the ashes on the forehead are a very visible sign of this. Going forth into Lent remember that it offers a great opportunity to grow in holiness through the acknowledgement of sin.

Below is a funny picture showing the different shapes of ashes we receive on Ash Wednesday. Photo credit goes to Bill Donaghy