Happy Ash Wednesday. Today is the day that Catholics and many (although not all) Christians around the world can be picked out in a crowd. They are the ones with the black marks on their foreheads. I have to say that when I was growing up, this was one of the favorite days to go to church. Odd as that might sound, as little kids going to Catholic school, we got ashes put on our foreheads and spent a good chunk of time after that, comparing and contrasting our marks, trying to decipher the cross — sometimes it was apparent but sometimes, it simply appeared as a black smudge on your forehead.
Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season and starts counting down the 46 days until Easter Sunday.
Ashes are symbolic of repentance, sorrow and humility. We are reminded today of our mortality and humbled by the phrase “Thou are dust and to dust thou shall return” which is sometimes stated when the ashes are placed on your forehead (more when I was younger than now), although a more modern alternative isn’t quite as gloomy and speaks of repenting and returning to the Gospel.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of sacrifice and meatless meals. These are things that become engrained in you growing up. Fish on Fridays. Pizza becomes a meal staple, as does pasta. My own house presents a bit of conundrum with the fish meals, since our youngest son is allergic to white fishes and my husband can’t eat shellfish, so we tend to lean to the meatless rather than the fish-full. Bummer since I happen to like fish, but c’est la vie.
Happy Ash Wednesday!