There's a day that comes around each year when you might see people walking around with black marks on their foreheads—it's a day known as Ash Wednesday. Arcadia Community Church will be celebrating Ash Wednesday with a special worship service. Pastor John will share a message from the Bible entitled, "There is no Fear in Love." We hope you will join us for a service designed to deepen your faith in and experience of Jesus Christ on February 14, 2024 at 7:00 p.m.
Here's the run down on what exactly is Ash Wednesday, and the point of those marks on people's forehead? (And by the way, you will have an opportunity to get one of those marks during the service, if you want too. But no one has too.)
Lent a season of penance that includes prayer, fasting and almsgiving, begins with Ash Wednesday—a holy day of prayer and fasting. Traditionally, "lent" referred to the lengthening of the days during springtime. It comes from the English noun, "lenten," meaning "the season of spring."
Ash Wednesday is officially recognized as the "Day of Ashes," signifying the practice of rubbing ashes on one's forehead in the sign of a cross as a sign of penance or expression of repentance.
The ashes used for Ash Wednesday are the burnt remains of the palm branches used the previous year on Palm Sunday. Each year, these branches are burned down into a fine powder, often mixed with holy water or chrism oil to create a paste. This day reminds humankind of its mortality, and our need for right standing with God.
This year, Ash Wednesday falls on February 14, 2024. Ash Wednesday is always 40 days before Easter. It's technically 46 days before Easter, if you include Sundays, but Sundays are traditionally considered feast days, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thus they are not included in the penitential season.
The forty days of Lent point to Jesus Christ’s 40-day fast, and temptation, in the wilderness after being baptized.
Anyone can receive ashes. When a priest administers the ashes, he often says something similar to this: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." While this exact phrase is not used in the Bible, the idea is referenced in a number of places.
"Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being." Genesis 2:7 (NRSV)
"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:19
"Abraham answered, 'Let me take it upon myself to speak to my lord, I who am but dust and ashes.'" Genesis 18:27
"All go to one place, all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again." Ecclesiastes 3:20
Although it is a Catholic tradition, and Arcadia Community Church is not a catholic church, a number of other Protestants like us participate in the observance of Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, along with the liturgical calendar seasons of Lent and Advent, continues to grow in popularity among the various church traditions.