Ash Wednesday TimelineQ: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. It occurs forty days before Good Friday.
Q: Why is it called Ash Wednesday?
A: Actually, Ash Wednesday is its colloquial name. Its official name is the Day of Ashes. It is called Ash Wednesday because, being forty days before Good Friday, it always falls on a Wednesday and it is called Ash Wednesday because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.
Q: Why do they have their foreheads marked with a cross?
A: Because in the Bible a mark on the forehead is a symbol of a person's ownership. By having their foreheads marked with the sign of a cross, this symbolizes that the person belongs to Jesus Christ, who died on a Cross.
This is in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism, when he is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Rom. 6:3-18).
Q: Where do the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from?
A: They are made by burning palm fronds which have been saved from the previous year's Palm Sunday, they are then blessed by a priest -- blessed ashes having been used in God's rituals since the time of Moses (Numbers 19:9-10, 17).
Q: What are some biblical examples of people putting dust and ashes on their foreheads?
A: Consider the following verses from the New International Version:
- "That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head." (1 Samuel 4:12)
- "On the third day a man arrived from Saul's camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor." (2 Samuel 1:20
- "Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went." (2 Samuel 13:19)
- "When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head." (2 Samuel 15:32)
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