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Wednesday, February 21, 2007 

Ash Wednesday!

From dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for the Church. I'm looking forward to going to church tonight to receive the imposition of ashes. The ashes are supposed to come from the burning of last year's palm crosses. As my pastor or vicar makes the sign of the cross on the forehead he reminds us of our mortality by announcing "From dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return".

For more on this historical Church event, be sure to visit Aardvark Alley as Orycteropus Afer explains it all much better than I ever could in this great post.

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Where in the bible does it tell us to put ashes on our foreheads to signify the beginning of lent?


To quote the Aardvark:
“Ash Wednesday receives its name from the ancient custom of rubbing oneself in ashes during a fast or period of penance as a sign of humility and sorrow. In Scripture, we observe this happening among people as varied as Job, the king of Ninevah and the rest of the city, Daniel, and Mordecai.

These days, most believers don't cover themselves in burlap and ashes; the ashes are placed on the foreheads of believers as their pastor says, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." The ashes remind us that we still daily sin and that all our grand and glorious deeds are nothing in God's sight. This is especially illustrated when the ashes are taken from the burning of the previous year's branches used on Palm Sunday. The praises of the people, their "Hosanna to the Son of David" and "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord," have fallen silent and are consigned to the burn pile of good intentions not followed through.”

But we are also warned by Christ himself in the Gospel of Matthew 6:16-18 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

So Jesus is telling us that if we do anything that causes others to pat us on the back and tell how wonderful and pious we are, then that will be our reward. All things we do should not focus on our own sinful nature but cause us to look to Christ for our reward by God’s merciful grace.

That answer your question?

I just realized that our church uses an organ! The Bible doesn’t say we can use an organ to start our worship service. Which musical instruments are we to use?

It appears to me to be like a Catholic symbolism. I know that there are many different faiths and religions, and different ways we all do things, but I have never understood ashes on the head.

Again, read: Ashes on the head have ALWAYS been a symbol of humility and repentance. That's all over the Bible. What's particularly and distinctively "Roman Catholic" about being sorry for your sins and remembering that Jesus died on the cross for them? Isn't that universal in Christianity?

Roman Catholics have pulpits. Your church probably does, too. Where in the Bible does it say that we have to read his Word from a pulpit? Does that make it a "Catholic" tradition? Only in the little-c "catholic" sense-- it's a universal Christian practice. Just like ashes on the forehead. You don't have to do it. But you shouldn't shun it just because other Christians do it. There's a good purpose for it.

Just because something is not in the Bible doesn't mean it is wrong. No where in the Bible does it say "celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 with pine trees and minature manger scenes."

Traditions teach Christian doctrine. I would write more... bgut I have to go. I suggest reading The Fire and The Staff by Klemet Preus. He goes into detail over the purpose of practices of the church.

Anonymous #2, Kelly, and Chief,

You guys are awesome! Good points all.

Anonymous #’s 1 and 3, is your problem as I believe Kelly is suggesting that I just “look” too Roman Catholic for your tastes? Is it that you believe that Christianity needs to throw out all liturgies and traditions and start new every couple of generations? I’m being very serious here.

I am amazed that people get upset when someone ask a question about something. I ask because I didn't really understand the ashes thing you do. I can only hope that if an unbeliever asks a question you answer it in a better way than you did to me. Every once in a while don't you wonder about something maybe your church doesn't do that others do and want to know why? Sometimes you learn by asking a question.


Did you post both questions?

Speaking for myself, I certainly meant no disrespect concerning your question. I frequently have family members who post anonymous questions here and if for no other reason than that, I treat every question with respect. Sometimes I am a little sarcastic and that creates problems, but this was not the case this time.

All that being said, the reason you may have sensed anyone being a little “irritable” with your question (s) is that for a while now, those who like all things liturgical are being told the old ways are antiquated and need to be thrown out so we don’t offend the unchurched. More often than not I have found that those who claim to care about the unchurched, want to water down not only our liturgies but our theologies as well. Instead of holding up as an example these old ways, we water them down to the point where they are not even distinguishable from a local high school glee club meeting.


I'm glad that you want to learn. That is wonderful. If you truely are interested in learning, read the Fire and the Staff by Klemet Preus. Trust me, you will learn and it is an AMAZING book!

Understabnd that we are physical creatures, and so it should not be a suprise to find that God and His church uses physical, tangible things to proclaim Christ's love.

He speaks His Word into our ears (hearing), we taste His body and blood in communion, we feel His love in the waters of baptism, and we see His cross being held up to our eyes.

The ashes on the forehead is just another tangible way the church proclaims God's love to us.

That is all it really is. Does that help?

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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