Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. Ash Wednesday serves as a time for Christians to reflect on their lives, confess their sins, seek repentance, and prepare spiritually for the celebration of Easter. It is a solemn day that signifies humility, mortality, and the acknowledgment of human frailty. Many Christians also engage in fasting and self-denial during the Lenten season as a way of drawing closer to God.
The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. The Lenten season culminates with Holy Week, which includes Palm Sunday and the joyous celebration of Easter.
Imposition of Ashes: The imposition of ashes is an ancient way to begin the season of Lent. These are made from branches of palms from the previous year's Liturgy of the Palms that have been collected and burned, and the residue sifted and cooled, well in advance of Ash Wednesday services. These may be imposed by making a sign of the cross on the forehead, or just a smudge. The imposition of ashes is often accompanied by the words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," emphasizing mortality and the need for repentance.
The BAS appoints Ash Wednesday and the other weekdays of Lent and Holy Week, except the Feast of the Annunciation, as Days of Special Devotion to be observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.