Coming from the Church of Christ tradition, I’ve had very little experience when it comes to the Catholic Church. Personally, the more I learn the more interested I am in their theology and methodology. Ever since I first learned about their idea of transubstantiation, where the communion bread actually becomes the body of Christ, I’ve been hooked. I don’t think I’m in danger of becoming Catholic by any means, but I think there is something to be said about a church that has been as established as they are in their practices for as long as they have. I think all of us, stuck up, restoration movement, churches could and should take a look back at the church we broke away from all those years ago. We might find new and inspiring things we can bring back to our traditions. I know I’m probably speaking heresy here, in the opinions of some, but before you react, do a little research for yourself. I bet you’ll find something interesting that might give you a little more insight into your relationship with Christ.
Below is some information regarding Ash Wednesday taken from Wikipedia. Feel free to peruse. Maybe you’ll find something worthwhile, or maybe you’ll be able to better understand your friends and co-workers. Who knows what can happen when you step outside of your box and explore those of others.
In the Western Christian calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and occurs forty-six days before Easter. It falls on different dates from year to year, according to the date of Easter; it can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. Ash Wednesday can fall on Leap Day only during a leap year for which April 15 is Easter Sunday. The next time Ash Wednesday will fall on Leap Day will be in 2096, the first such year since the 1582 adoption of the Gregorian Calendar. At Masses and services of worship on this day, worshippers are blessed with ashes by the celebrating priest or minister. The priest or minister marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes, in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown. In many Christian churches, the minister of ashes may also be a layperson or non-clergyman. The symbolism echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one’s head signifying repentance before God (as related in the Bible). The priest or minister offers the worshipper an instruction while applying the ashes. These are three examples:
“Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” (Latin: Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.)
-God, Genesis 3:19
“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
-Jesus, Mark 1:15
The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations and mixing them with olive oil as a fixative. In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence (from meat), and repentance—a day of contemplating one’s transgressions. The ashes are sacramentals, not a sacrament. The Penitential psalms are read.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, which lasts until Holy Thursday evening (using the Catholic liturgical calendar) or until the Easter Vigil (under most Protestant denominations’ reckoning). On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are permitted to consume only one full meal, which may be supplemented by two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Many Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations demanded by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat, as are all Fridays in Lent. Many Catholics continue fasting during the whole of Lent, as was the Church’s traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil.