Ash Wednesday has a long history in the Christian Church. It is the traditional first day of Lent and a time for people to recognize their sins and ask forgiveness. In the earliest church, the time set aside for the penitential preparation for Easter was 6 weeks (42 days before Easter). Since Sundays are not counted in Lent (Sundays celebrate the Resurrection), that left only 36 days for prayer and fasting. In the 7th century four days were added to coincide with the traditional forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness in the temptation story. The first Sunday in Lent uses the temptation scriptures as the Gospel reading.
When the life of the Church in Rome was just beginning, those who were penitents or who had sinned grievously were required to go through this public penitential period before they could be restored as part of the Church. These people would be sprinkled with ashes, dressed is sackcloth and obliged to remain apart until they could be reconciled with the Church on Maundy Thursday. By the 8th to 10th century these practices fell into disuse and the imposition of ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead was a practice of the entire congregation.
We will have a worship service tonight (Ash Wednesday, February 22) at 6:30 PM. The imposition of ashes will be available to all who desire this symbolic act. This year our Wednesday services (Agape Meals) will reflect on scripture stories that tell of God’s Amazing Grace because this is the 250th anniversary of the writing of that hymn. All are invited to Greenbelt Community Church on Wednesdays and also on Sunday mornings as together we enter this sacred remembrance.