On Wednesday, Christians around the globe will receive ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday as a mark of the beginning of the season of Lent. For those not familiar with the Christian tradition, a thorough examination will be made as to why millions participate in this time of repentance and exercising of faith.
During every year of the religious calendar Lent is celebrated. Ash Wednesday kicks off the 40 days worshippers dedicate to repentance until the season’s conclusion on Easter Sunday. During mass, the priest will mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of each follower. The ashes are embers of burned palms from Palm Sunday of the previous year. When the ashes are worn they signify that a worshipper has sinned and is willing to repent and seek redemption.
The 40 days commemorates the time Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert without food or water prior embarking on his ministry. Jesus performed a tradition expected of prophets in that they practice self-discipline before spreading the word of God. During his time in the wilderness Jesus was tempted by Satan to sin against God but refused and overcame his fasting process.
To mimic the actions of Jesus, Christians are expected to fast. Worshippers typically give up something during the 40 days, such as a favorite food or caffeine. An additional form of fasting observed during Lent is the practice of not eating meat on Fridays. The tradition is in observance of Christ’s crucifixion which occurred on a Friday. However eating fish is usually a popular substitute in that the fish is a symbol of Jesus’s ministry.
Christians will embark on another major fast on Good Friday during Holy Week. Good Friday serves as a reflection of the Passion of Christ, observing events such as Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and eventual death. Lastly Easter Sunday, which ends Holy Week and concludes the Lenten season, will mark the holiest day of the year as it celebrates Christ’s resurrection and abolishment of sin.
Today Christians will continue the long tradition of expressing their faith through self-discipline and sacrifice. As they receive ashes, the next challenge worshippers will find is keeping their determination during the 40 days of giving up a beloved item.