Ash Wednesday: A day to remember Christ

St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Rexburg will be holding ash distribution on Wednesday at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Photo credit: Gabriela Fletcher

This Wednesday is a holy day for many Christians known as Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday takes place exactly 46 days before Easter, which falls on Feb. 22 this year. On Ash Wednesday, those who celebrate can attend a special Mass that will be distributing ash to each participant.

According to Saint Ann Catholic Church, “The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'”

For some, ashes are also symbolic of grief for sin. Wearing the ashes is a sign of penance, or an action done out of repentance for sins committed. The ashes — made from burnt palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday and christened with holy water — are typically worn for the duration of the day as a reminder that all life on earth eventually ends.

This holy day is the first of the 40-day period (not including Sundays) called Lent, which is a season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving typically celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians. This period is representative of Christ’s 40-day fast in the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan, as recorded in the New Testament in Matthew 4.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Christians are “not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully.”

Lent is best known as a season where Christians hold a fast from different worldly habits or dependencies, or add something to their daily lives to better remember Christ and His sacrifice for the world’s sins. This fasting also serves as a way to practice self-discipline and prepare to partake of communion or the Eucharist.

“My husband and I are gonna say the rosary every day,” said Anna Luna, a member of the Catholic faith that will be participating in Lent. “Some people give up candy … smoking or drinking … You can even visit an old folks home, it’s really up to you. (The point is) to sacrifice something and remind you every single day to think of God.”

Though members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not typically observe Lent, some may find value in giving up or adding something to their lives to remind them of Christ in preparation for Easter through a personal observance of Lent.