Ash Wednesday – February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday is one of the most important holy days in the
liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting
and prayer and repentance. It comes from the ancient Jewish
tradition of penance and fasting. The ashes symbolize the dust from
which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s
forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and
to dust you shall return.” Alternatively, the priest may speak the
words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Ashes also symbolize
grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused alienation
from God. Priests administer ashes during Mass and all are invited
to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance. The ashes are
made from blessed palm branches from the previous year’s Palm
Sunday Mass. It is important to remember that Ash Wednesday is a
day of penitential prayer and fasting. Some faithful take the day off
work and remain home. It is generally inappropriate to dine out, to
shop, or to feast on this day. Small children, the elderly and sick are
exempt from this observance.