As Wednesday service at
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Originally, the first day of Lent was the day on which public penitents at Rome began their penance. They were sprinkled with ashes, dressed in sackcloth, and required to remain apart from the community until Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter).
As this practice fell into disuse between the 8th and 10th centuries, it was replaced by the general penance of the entire congregation.
From at least as early as the 8th century, this day was known as dies cinerum (day of ashes). This reflects the central ritual of this holiday, the placing of ashes on the forehead to symbolize mourning and penitence.
Ash Wednesday not found anywhere in scripture as is actually of pagan origin and was admitted into the church beliefs of the Catholic Church a few hundred years after Christ. This was the era when Constantine was attempting to weld pagans and Christians into a unit within the Roman kingdom.
Having said that, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:9; Esther 4:1; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21
Ashes are placed on all willing members of the congregation, usually in the shape of a cross.
At some churches, believers wash the ashes off before leaving the church to symbolize that they have been cleansed of their sins; in other churches, participants leave the ashes on when they leave, thereby "carrying the cross out into the world."
Hope to see you there!