What is Ash Wednesday?
Why are we marked with an ashen cross?
On Ash Wednesday we begin our forty-day journey toward Easter. It is the first day of the season of Lent. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and repentance. Receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross, we acknowledge that we die and return to the earth. At the same time, the dust traces the life-giving cross indelibly marked on our foreheads at baptism. While we journey through Lent to return to God, we have already been reconciled to God through Christ. We humbly pray for God to make our hearts clean while we rejoice that “now is the day of salvation.” Returning to our baptismal call, we more intentionally bear the fruits of mercy and justice in the world.
Though we contemplate our mortality on Ash Wednesday, acknowledging that this earthly life will end, this somber day is a beginning, too, of a season of returning to our baptism. T. S. Eliot, in his poem “Little Gidding,” writes, “What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from” (from Four Quartets, 1943).
In 2022, Ash Wednesday falls on March 2.