The tradition of Ash Wednesday dates back to at least the 10th century. The service should be a reminder of our sin and mortality in the face of God’s holiness and eternal life. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. The biblical witness is found in the opening epic of the human story “you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). In the tenth century the use of ashes was employed in visibly reminding worshippers of their mortality as they began their Lenten “watch by the cross.” This first day of Lent reminds us of “the dying of the old self and the coming to life of the new.” The way to Easter is the way of the cross. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). New life with Christ involves a daily surrendering of the old life. The first step of this Lenten journey invites us to acknowledge our mortality and our sinfulness by the imposition of ashes.
As each worshiper comes forward the ashes are imposed on the forehead in the sign of a cross and the words of Genesis 3:19 are repeated each time: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Or part of Mark 1:15 “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The imposition of ashes is often preceded by a call to confession and followed by a corporate prayer of confession, calling to mind the words of Job, “I repent in dust and ashes.” It is simply a vivid and tangible reminder of our sinfulness and mortality and of our utter dependence upon the grace of God and the power of Christ’s resurrection.
How you can join in celebrating Ash Wednesday
In preparation and celebration for Ash Wed, The WELL is participating in voluntary 24 hr corporate fast from 9pm Tuesday, February 13 to 9pm Wednesday, February 14. Included in our 24 hour fast, we are also asking everyone to find 1hr of uninterrupted silence and solitude. In order to help facilitate this time, the Calvary Chapel will be open from 9am-5pm for prayer.
Below is an article to help introduce, instruct, and equip you for a time of fasting. We have also included a suggested outline for your time of silence and solitude. It might also be fun join others in breaking the fast by making plans for communal meals in dorms, apartments, or restaurants.
Hear and Draw Near,
The Well Staff