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How did Ash Wednesday start?

Discussion in 'Theologia Crucis - Lutherans' started by BabyLutheran, Feb 6, 2008.

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  1. BabyLutheran

    BabyLutheran God Chose Me

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    I have had several people ask me what Ash Wednesday signifies. This is my first celebrated one, and I am not really sure what Jesus did 40 days before he rose from the dead, so I was ill-prepared to answer. Help!!!!!
     
  2. maylor

    maylor Regular Member

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    Q. What is the significance of Lent?

    A. Early in the Church's history, the major events in Christ's life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension.

    As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus' birth and resurrection as a time of preparation.
     
  3. maylor

    maylor Regular Member

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    Q. Would you please explain the significance of Ash Wednesday. I've seen some people in the past with black ash crosses on their foreheads
    A. Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, the recent commentary on Lutheran Worship, one of our Synod's hymnals, says this about ashes on Ash Wednesday: "Other customs may be used, particularly the imposition of ashes on those who wish it. This ancient act is a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day. Ashes can symbolize dust-to-dustness and remind worshipers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing and purifying. If they are applied during an act of kneeling, the very posture of defeat and submission expresses humility before God."
    The use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a more recent custom among most LCMS congregations, although some have done it for decades. The ashes are usually derived from the burned palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Experience will show, however, that in obtaining ashes this way, it doesn't take many ashes to "ash" a whole congregation. Like sin, they are very dirty and go a long way. One palm leaf will produce enough ashes for several years.
    Usually the pastor takes the ashes on the end of his thumb and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each worshiper, saying these words: "Remember: you are dust, and to dust you shall return." This follows most effectively prior (or as part of) the Service Corporate Confession and Absolution on pp. 308-309 of Lutheran Worship.

    http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=3904
     
  4. BabyLutheran

    BabyLutheran God Chose Me

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    Thanks for the info, but it really doesn't tell why it ever started as a special day. What I mean is, Palm Sunday was the day Jesus came into Jerusalem on the donkey and the people waved palm leaves and proclaimed him.

    Was something similar done 40 days before Easter that we are commemorating? Why not 100 days, 30 days, a week, etc?
     
  5. maylor

    maylor Regular Member

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    These are from the LCMS.org site, but I bet there is good information at the ELCA site also.

    http://www.elca.org/
     
  6. maylor

    maylor Regular Member

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    You know, BabyLutheran, I bet we're gonna hear about the origins and meaning of Ash Wednesday tonight at our services. I'm new to the idea of observing the church year and Lutheranism so I don't know much either!
     
  7. BabyLutheran

    BabyLutheran God Chose Me

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    40 is used a lot in the Bible, so I am sure there is some significance to it!
     
  8. DaRev

    DaRev New Member

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    The forty days of Lent (which does not include Sundays - Lent runs 46 days including Sundays) signifies the forty day fast that Christ experienced in the wilderness following His baptism. Lent is a time of penitence and focusing on our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. The 40 day period before Easter Sunday is a prepatory time before the Resurrection.

    When we count back 40 days, plus the Sundays, before Easter, we arrive at the first day of the Lenten season which falls on a Wednesday. The significance of the ashes follows the Old Testament practice of wearing sackcloth and sitting ashes as an outward sign of repentance. Sackcloth and ashes are mentioned a number of times in the OT. Since the season of Lent is the season of penitence and ashes are an outward sign or our repentance, the first day of the Lenten season is aptly named "Ash Wednesday".
     
  9. BabyLutheran

    BabyLutheran God Chose Me

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    Thank you. I am now equipped to tell the Baptist dude here at my office why we do Lent, and what Ash Wednesday represents.
     
  10. RevCowboy

    RevCowboy Lutheran Pastor in small town Alberta

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    In the early Church, Baptisms used to only take place on the Great Vigil of Easter. Thus the prior forty days was undertaken as a time of preparation for the catechumenate. During those forty, those preparing to be baptized would fast and study the faith, just as Christ did in the wilderness. Then on the Easter Vigil all the catchemens would be baptized and then would receive for the first time the Lord's Supper.

    Eventually it was thought that this time of preparation for catachumens was good for all of us to do, so we all undertake a measure of discipline during lent to prepare for the great celebration that will take place on Easter Sunday morning.
     
  11. Lupinus

    Lupinus Senior Member

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    Whats with having it at night though?

    I generally remember ashes normally being applied in the morning, my chruch doesn't have service until 7pm
     
  12. Quintessence

    Quintessence Regular Member

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    I was about to ask the same thing BabyLutheran did, thanks for the great answers guys. :)
     
  13. BabyLutheran

    BabyLutheran God Chose Me

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    Probably pragmatism. No one would come in the morning. Same with us, we have service at 7pm
     
  14. DaRev

    DaRev New Member

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    We have two services today. One at Noon and one at 7pm.
     
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