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    World Religion & Speculative Theology - Thread: Ash Wednesday

    1. #1
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      Ash Wednesday

      “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

      For nearly a thousand years, these words have been spoken to young and old alike as the Sign of the Cross is traced on their foreheads with ashes—the Imposition of Ashes, as it has come to be known. And while some Americans are apt to think of this as a Roman Catholic tradition, in reality it is also a practice in Lutheran and Anglican communities - and often in other Protestant churches, too.


      Ashes in the Bible

      The Bible contains a number of references to ashes and dust (cf. Joshua 7:6; 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2, 15:32; Job 2:12, 16:15; Jeremiah 25:34; Lamentations 2:10; Ezekiel 27:30; Jonah 3:6). In fact, the Lord's curse on Adam, “dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19) is echoed in the Imposition of Ashes formula. In the New Testament, Jesus declares: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). Thus, in the Bible, ashes carry a two-fold meaning: as a sign of human mortality (Genesis 3:19) and as a sign of public repentance (Matthew 11:21).


      Ashes in Church History

      This understanding carried over into the early and medieval church. Tertullian (ca. 160-225) describes the use of sackcloth and ashes in the penance of an adulterer before his pastor. Originally, ashes were reserved only for public penitents—i.e., murderers, adulterers and others who had fallen away from the church because of grave public sin but desired reconciliation. Such reconciliation could occur at a variety of times during the year, but by the medieval period, the beginning of Lent became a primary season of the church year for that reconciliation to take place.

      By the 12th century, ashes became specifically associated with the beginning of Lent, thus providing the first day of Lent with its name, Ash Wednesday. However, by this time, everybody—pastors and people alike—had ashes (mixed with a tiny bit of olive oil) traced on their foreheads in the Sign of the Cross. By the time of the Reformation, the imposition of ashes was a long and universal practice, that was continued by Lutheran and Anglican Protestants.


      Ashes Today?


      A contemporary Christian appropriation of the Imposition of Ashes should begin with the two-fold biblical understanding of ashes: as a sign of our mortality and as a sign of our repentance. Likewise, the traditional formula, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” is most appropriate, since it paraphrases the words of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:19). By receiving the ashes, the worshipper acknowledges that God's judgment against our sin is right and just. But the ashes are also made in the Sign of the Cross—the very instrument by which our Lord took upon himself the punishment for our sin, in our place. Thus, the Cross of ashes serves to remind us that we are sinners, and that Christ died for us sinners. Furthermore, it reminds us of our Baptism, where we also received the Sign of the Cross on our foreheads, reminding us that we are not only sinners but are redeemed.




      .
      We are justified by works - just not our own.

    2. #2
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      It may be surprising, but this tradition is foreign to my world.

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      My wife and I usually attend Ash Wednesday service together but she has to work too late this time so I’m going by myself tonight. It’s a solemn service and am looking forward to the sermon.

    4. #4
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      I have a hard time making it to the evening services at my church so I won't be getting my ashes again this year.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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      Quote Originally Posted by MennoSota View Post
      It may be surprising, but this tradition is foreign to my world.
      The beginning of Lent is not foreign to Mennonites; to your "world", perhaps.

      Ash Wednesday - Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

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      Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryDay2 View Post
      The beginning of Lent is not foreign to Mennonites; to your "world", perhaps.

      Ash Wednesday - Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies
      Thanks. I am sure some have adopted customs in hopes of attracting people to come to church.
      I did not grow up in such an environment where lent was ever considered.

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      In the Baptist church where I attend they don't celebrate Ash Wednesday. I probably wouldn't even know about except that the Methodist do celebrate it and I grew up in the Methodist church

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      Catholic parishes celebrate ash wednesday.

      Saint Jude, author of the new testament letter.

      He is the patron of impossible causes because the scriptural Letter of St. Jude, which he authored, urges Christians to persevere in difficult times.

      Hidden Content

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      Quote Originally Posted by MennoSota View Post
      It may be surprising, but this tradition is foreign to my world.
      It is foreign to mine as well...

      As it is to all the Apostolic Churches not in Communion with the Latin Church...

      At least I am unaware of any others celebrating it...


      Arsenios

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      It is not clear when the Wednesday beginning the Lenten fast began to include the imposition of ashes.
      Originally, the imposition of ashes was one of several public rites
      required of those penitents who wished to be restored to the Church.

      As early as the 4th century, these rites were associated with a 40 day fast.
      Most likely this fast was the Lenten fast, but the evidence is too thin to be conclusive.
      What does seem clear is that, by the end of the 10th century,
      it was customary in Western Europe (but not yet in Rome)
      for all the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of the Lenten fast.
      In 1091, this custom was then ordered by Pope Urban II at the council of Benevento
      to be extended to the church in Rome.
      Not long after that, the name of the day was referred to in the liturgical books
      as “Feria Quarta Cinerum” (i.e., Ash Wednesday).


      http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/or...-ash-wednesday

      So our EO Church does have a "Western Rite" branch that does include "Ash Wednesday"...

      The remembrance of death is an essential feature of restoration to the Early Church of those fallen away...


      Arsenios

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