Ash Wednesday holds numerous important meanings for Catholics: the beginning of Lent, the start of the fish fry season, as well as the first day in preparation for Easter, where we celebrate Jesus’s death and resurrection. But what is the true meaning and importance of Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church?
Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance when we, as Christians, confess our sins and profess our devotion to God. During mass, the priest places ashes on a person’s forehead, symbolizing both death and repentance, in the shape of a cross. The priest then says one of these two phrases: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return,” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The phrases speak to us with both humility and exaltation, of death and new life. The ashes signify our inner fragility and poverty, while the cross signifies our salvation in the mercy of God.
On Ash Wednesday, we are called to fast or eat a lighter meal that doesn’t include meat with the exception of the elderly, young children, and those who are sick. Throughout the season of Lent, we are also called to either sacrifice something meaningful to us or take on something to help us grow spiritually. Some people may choose to give up something such as sweets or social media, while others may choose to include more prayer time into their daily lives. This is done to remember how Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert fasting and praying. It is also done to change our hearts and seek reconciliation with God and others in our lives.
So, with that being said, I challenge everyone who is reading this to give up something that is holding back your relationship with God, try to pray more than you already do, and be more kind to others in this Lenten season, whether it’s complimenting someone or helping someone out. Most importantly, I challenge all of us to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of our Lord.