Why Ashes for Ash Wednesday?

lenten_ashes.jpg

You don’t see ashes being used in a worship service every day.  Ash Wednesday is a once a year special service that begins a unique season called Lent.  On Ash Wednesday a cross is made on the head with ashes.  It is a physical reminder that we on the one hand continue to struggle to do the good that pleases God and helps our neighbor and on the other hand that God has given us a promise of healing by the cross on which Jesus Christ died.  So at one time we show our need for help, a thought provoking ash-made cross on our head and the place of help of our need, the cross where Jesus offer to continue to take all of our pain and sin to Himself and away from us.

 

These ashes mark the beginning of our journey.  Our spiritual journal begins at baptism.  Ash Wednesday is a reminder of that beginning as we start the journey of Lent – the journey to the cross with Jesus Christ.  On Ash Wednesday the sign of a cross is made on our forehead, we look to the cross and to the Savior and walk this challenging road with him.

These ashes are made in a special way.

Olive Oil

 

Palm Branch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Take one part palm ash – these palm branches were used on Palm Sunday from years past.  Palm Sunday is the day they celebrated Jesus arrival at Jerusalem by waving palms and singing praises (John 12).  It was the beginning of the week when Jesus goes to the cross for us.  It is these palm branches, ones of praise, which now become a symbol of Christ’s death on the cross.
  • Take one part olive oil – olive oil was used in healing arts at the time normally applied with prayer (James 5), now it is a symbol of our prayers of repentance and healing through Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Mix together and apply to the forehead in the shape of a cross – that cross reminds us of the journey we have begun on the way to the cross of Good Friday, it is a small picture of our journey here on earth.  Thanks be to God that it is not our cross but Christ’s at the end of this journey.
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