Udupi: Ash Wednesday observed with devotion marking the beginning of the Lent

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By Eugene Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Udupi/M’belle, 05 March 2014: Ash Wednesday marking the commencement of the Season of Lent in preparation to the  Feast of Easter is being  observed by the Christians throughout the world with prayers, devotion, fasting and abstinence on Wednesday, 5 March 2014.
During the Mass, after the homily, the ash was blessed and applied with the sign of Cross on the forehead or heads of the faithful with the words “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” The other phrase used is “Repent, and believe the Gospel.” Before applying the ash on the faithful individually, the priests applied the ash on each other’s forehead.
In Western Christendom, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and falls between February 4th and March 11th, 40 days before Easter. Early in Christian history the length of Lent varied, but in the 7th century it was fixed at 40 days as a reminder of the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. Early penitents were sprinkled with ashes, wore sackcloth, and were required to remain apart from the rest of the community until they were reconciled on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter.



The most obvious mark of observation of Ash Wednesday is the blessing and application of ashes to the foreheads of those who participate as a sign of penance. By the 11th century this custom had largely disappeared and was replaced with the distribution of ashes during the services and their application to the foreheads of all members of a congregation. Traditionally this is accompanied by “Remember you are dust and will return to dust,” but today “Turn from sin and live the gospel” is often used.


Christians are expected to engage in both fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday. Today only Roman Catholics continue with the tradition of applying ashes on Ash Wednesday, using the ashes created by the burning of palm fronds from the previous Palm Sunday. There are special church services on Ash Wednesday in Anglican, Lutheran, and some other Protestant churches. Eastern Orthodox churches do not observe Ash Wednesday at all because their Lent begins on a Monday, known as “Clean Monday”.



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