Ash Wednesday (March 6) is the beginning of Lent.
What are these ashes all about?
A colleague looked at another colleague and wondered why she had “ashes” on her forehead. (March 6, 2019 TODAY ) in the tradition of most Christian churches (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and others) it is Ash Wednesday, originally called dies cinerum or day of ashes.
Ash Wednesday is the name given to the first day of the season of Lent, in the typical Ash Wednesday observance, Christians are invited to the altar to receive the ashes. The Pastor applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each, while speaking the words, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19).
For over twelve hundred years on the dies cinerum (day of ashes) faithful followers have approached the altar and received ashes upon their foreheads. These ashes are made from the burnt palm branches that were blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year.
Abstaimning , fasting and generally changing one’s lifestle during Lent was taken very seriously. People would often give up there favourite food, would refuse to play cards and or attend dances and other social functions.
Imagine, no movie for 40 days!!
Times have changed!
During Lent of 1909, Michael Francis Howley, the Catholic Archbishop of Newfoundland was very concerned about a relatively new form of entertainment that had become quite popular. His concern about this “new entertainment” stirred him to release a Pastoral Letter to be read in all churches. The Pastoral Letter outlined the rules and regulations of Lent for that year. The letter was very direct and forbade Catholics:
“to attend any worldly amusements; such as balls, dances, even in private houses, parties, theatrical or other entertainments, such as these new forms of moving pictures, or shows of any kind held in Public Halls by whatsoever name they may be called.”
The idea of abstinence and fasting is not exclusive to the Christian world.
Buddhism, the Buddha Himself encouraged monks and nuns to limit their food intake after the noon meal, and therefore it is common practice among Buddhist monks and nuns to refrain from eating after noon until the next morning on a daily basis.
Jews fast for six days which are spread out at various times in the Jewish calendar year; this means abstinence from food and liquids for both men and women – unless certain exemptions are necessary such as illness or pregnancy. The most important and holiest day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), and on this day Jews will fast and pray for a period of 25 hours.
Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for 30 days during the month of Ramadan, (which is the month the Prophet Muhammad revealed the Quran), followers are to abstain from food, liquid and smoking. Fasting is considered the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam (These pillars are: i. Creed; ii. Daily prayer; iii. Almsgiving; iv. Fasting; v. Pilgrimage), and it is obligatory for both men and women.