Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday in the Holy Land

Ash Wednesday and the first day of Lent are quickly approaching. The day is commonly commemorated by Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans and many other Christian communities around the world. 

It is most recognized by the ashes ceremonially put on the foreheads of the faithful. This goes back to ancient times, when ashes were a symbol used to express grief.

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19


Local Christians pray on Ash Wednesday in the Holy Land.

In Jerusalem, Ash Wednesday is normally marked with pilgrims and local Christians coming together. Around the empty tomb of Christ in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, you can typically find all nationalities celebrating the beginning of Lent.

This year in 2021, Ash Wednesday and all the Holy days leading up to Easter will look different in the Holy Land. 

Only the local faithful will be here, walking along the Old City’s cobblestone streets. But just because pilgrimages are not visiting, does not mean that you can not make a Holy Land prayer request.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’. Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.” Matthew 4:1-4


The ashes are from palm fronds used on last year's Palm Sunday
The ashes are from palm fronds used on last year’s Palm Sunday.

We, The Salvation Garden, offer you the chance to send your urgent prayer requests for any reason. Allow us to pray for you! Send your Urgent Prayer Requests now.

Our dedicated team members will personally take your urgent prayer requests to a Church of your choice in the Holy Land and then offer them to our Lord. After we bring your prayer requests to your chosen Holy Church, we will send you videos or pictures to assure you.

Ash Wednesday-About what and why?

Ash Wednesday-About what and why?

Ash Wednesday

At some point in the past, you might have shared images or wallpapers to mark and spread the importance of Ash Wednesday. It is one of the most significant and popular holy days in the liturgical calendar. But if you’ve ever wondered about the origins, historical significance, and other trivia around this special day of fasting, prayer, and abstinence, read on to know more about how it all began.

Origins of Lent

Ash Wednesday is observed to mark the onset of the season of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and self-restraint leading up to Easter Sunday. The day is also known as the “Day of Ashes” because the devout have their foreheads marked with ash drawn in the form of the Cross. The name Day of Ashes has been derived from “Dies Cinerum” found in the Roman Missal; although the exact roots of the day cannot be found, it can be traced back to the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. It is widely believed that its observance was followed by the Roman Catholics starting in the 6th century; marking the forehead with ashes on Ash Wednesday is likely to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great. During the Council of Nicea, Catholics started the tradition of observing Lent in about 325 CE. Although Ash Wednesday is probably most closely associated with Catholics, its significance is recognized by many Christian denominations and sects, including some Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and the Western Orthodox Churches.

The Evolution of Lenten Lore

According to the Old Testament, ashes were used both as a sign of mortality and humility. In other words, it is seen as a sign of sorrow as well as a symbol of repentance for sins. The Old Testament’s biblical custom also supports the Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday. In the 10th century, members and followers of the Anglo-Saxon church received ashes on their forehead as a sign of sorrow for their sins and a reminder of mortality. In 1901, the custom was accepted universally throughout the Western church at the Synod of Benevento.

Initially, the ashes were used to signify penance as a matter of one’s private devotion. Subsequently, it gained prominence as a part of the official ritual for repentance in public. The ashes became a motive for fellow Christians to embrace those who had sinned, look at them with sympathy, and pray for their return to the fold. This ritual evolved with the passage of time and the ashes emerged into its present custom of marking the start of the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. It is also associated with the adoption of the way of “Righteousness” as explained in the Book of Revelation.

Duration of Lent — Then & Now

The roots of the word Lent are embedded in the Middle English word “Lente”; it denotes “springtime”. The season of Lent is observed for a duration of 40 weekdays beginning from Ash Wednesday. It ends on Good Thursday and is observed as a period of fasting and repentance by the Roman Catholics, Eastern churches, and some Protestant churches as well. Sundays are not excluded from the 40-day count of the season. Hence, technically, the season of Lent lasts for 46 days. Initially, the duration of Lent was only for 36 days; subsequently, it was extended to the present duration of 40 days.

Why 40 Days?

An interesting question may come to mind as to why the duration for observing the season of Lent lasts for 40 days. The reason behind it is that the number 40 holds significance for Christians. Christ spent that many days and nights in the desert, during which he was tempted several times to sin against God. Noah witnessed 40 days of rain until the highest mountain was covered in water. The time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was 40 days.

Fasting During Lent

Other than staying away from feasting and merriment, fasting is one of the fundamental principles of Lent. According to the Catholic tradition, believers and followers should not consume meat during Lent. However, nowadays, this rule has been simplified and prohibits followers from eating meat only on Fridays. Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 should fast every Wednesday after Ash Wednesday, although one can eat a single regular-sized meal along with two small meals. Elderly people, small children and those who are sick or suffering from an ailment are exempt from keeping a fast.

How Do You Calculate the Date?

The date on which Easter is celebrated each year depends on the full moon of Passover or Paschal. It has been observed that Easter occurs on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25. One can use mathematical formulas to calculate when Easter will fall on any given year. Once the date for Easter is known, one can easily calculate the date when Lent begins. One simply needs to count 46 days (including Sundays) or 40 days (excluding Sundays) from Easter to determine the date of Ash Wednesday.

We, The Salvation Garden, offer you the chance to send your urgent prayer requests for any reason. Allow us to pray for you! Send your Urgent Prayer Requests now.

Our dedicated team members will personally take your urgent prayer requests to a Church of your choice in the Holy Land and then offer them to our Lord. After we bring your prayer requests to your chosen Holy Church, we will send you videos or pictures to assure you.

Interesting Facts About Ash Wednesday

Interesting Facts About Ash Wednesday

You’ve possibly attended mass on Ash Wednesday or seen people with ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads. You even abstain from merry-making and practice self-denial of activities you enjoy during the Lenten season. But have you ever wondered about the various aspects associated with one of the most significant dates of the liturgical calendar? If you wish to know more and learn about the interesting yet little-known facts about Ash Wednesday, read on to discover interesting nuggets about this widely observed day of prayer and fasting.

What Do the Ashes Signify and How Are They Obtained?

Although Ash Wednesday is not considered a Holy Day of Obligation, devout Catholics observe the day as a sign of an expression of their faith in Christ. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning or first day of the 40 days of the Lenten season, a six-week period dedicated to fasting, praying and giving donations in preparation for Easter. Believers wear the ashes on their foreheads drawn in the form of a cross, as a sign of humility. The ashes remind followers of the sins of humanity and the reason Christ died on the cross. Ashes are distributed to remind believers of their mortality and ask them to repent and believe in the Lord. During the days of the early Church, Ash Wednesday was marked as the day on which people who had sinned and also those who wished to be readmitted to the folds of the Church would start their atonement.

Traditionally, the ashes are derived from burning palm leaves that were distributed during the previous Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday is observed to celebrate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, where believers in Christ the Messiah waved branches of palm trees to commemorate his arrival. Typically, the ashes are mixed with olive oil or Holy Water. The Lenten service and ashes lay emphasis on and uphold the themes of mortality, sin, and God’s ultimate sacrifice of His own Son for the sins of the world.

According to the United Methodist Book of Worship, items burned to obtain the ashes include small cards or pieces of paper with sins or hurtful or unjust characteristics written on them. The cards are taken to the altar and burned along with the palm branches from the year before.

What Can You Not Eat?

According to the Catholic tradition, those who observe Ash Wednesday should abstain from consuming meat during the Lent season. Nowadays, this rule has been relaxed and people stay away from eating meat only on Fridays. People also give up on various pleasurable activities like watching television, and stay away from several items of food and drinking alcohol. Interestingly, a study conducted in 2014 revealed that 72% of people knew about the significance of Lent, and around 88% of those observing Lent had given up some item of food for the 40 days marking the Lenten season. Chocolate emerged as the number one item that people had willingly given up during this period.

The Official Color of Lent

The color violet represents mourning for Christ dying on the Cross and, at the same time, it is also associated with celebrating his Resurrection. Thus, violet is associated with both Christ’s pain and suffering on the Cross, as well as royalty. It is the official or symbolic color of Lent. Violet-colored fabric is used to veil or cover statues, altars, and myriad religious paraphernalia.

When Does the Season of Lent Come to an End?

The season of Lent does not end on Easter; it actually ends on Good Thursday, the day Christ had The Last Supper. Good Friday marks the day Christ died on the Cross, while Easter Sunday commemorates his Rising from the grave – The Resurrection.

Exclusion of Sundays

In the Christian calendar, the duration of the season of Lent is 40 days. The count does not include Sundays. Ash Wednesday falls on a different date every year as it depends on the date on which Easter Sunday is celebrated that year.

What is Laetare Sunday?

Laetare Sunday is observed by some churches as a special date. It falls in the middle of the liturgical season, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. The term Laetare derives its name from “Rejoice, O Jerusalem” or “Laetare Jerusalem”. It is a lighter form of worship that has a cheerful and festive tone as compared to the somber mood associated with other Sundays that fall during the Lenten season. It can also be seen as a preparation for Easter Sunday.

Why do Churches Refrain from Singing Alleluia during Lent?

During the season of Lent, it is customary for churches observing Lent to refrain from singing hymns featuring the Hebrew phrase “Alleluia” or “Praise the Lord”. According to an Evangelical Lutheran Church in the USA, the avoidance of the word “Alleluia” in songs or speeches dates back to the fifth century; the word is avoided during the 40 days of Lent as the season is associated with penance.

We, The Salvation Garden, offer you the chance to send your urgent prayer requests for any reason. Allow us to pray for you! Send your Urgent Prayer Requests now.

Our dedicated team members will personally take your urgent prayer requests to a Church of your choice in the Holy Land and then offer them to our Lord. After we bring your prayer requests to your chosen Holy Church, we will send you videos or pictures to assure you.


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