ASH WEDNESDAY: Is it a pagan or Christian practice?


Today commemorates another ASH WEDNESDAY all over the world. It is a day set aside to signify the start of the lenten period which normally lasts 40 days. Whereas lent means a season of fasting by Christians, predominantly observed by the Catholics. It is an annual event.

In Nigeria, millions of Catholic faithful woke up very early today to attend mass where their foreheads were marked with a mixture made from ashes. Many will carry that mark for the rest of the day and will not make any conscious effort to clean it off. In other climes, the priests sprinkle ashes over the heads of faithful as a sign of repentance and in readiness for the period that leads to Easter.

According to catholic.org, “Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting.

The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

But really, is the practice endorsed by God in the bible or is it just a tradition that many gullibly follow without asking questions or personal covinctions?

The truth is that the bible never for once mentioned ASH WEDNESDAY nor endorses it as a spiritual practice for Christians. However, there are events or stories in the bible that are similar to the use of ashes.

The story of Job, in the Old testament (Job 42:5-6) is a major indication of this. It was recorded that Job repented “in dust and ashes,” which may validate the belief that the marking of the forehead with ashes signifies “repentance” which is the anchor on which lent is built. Characters like Jeremiah, Esther, Isaiah and Samuel were also associated with ‘ashes’ in the bible.

Some may even be quick to quote Ezekiel 9:4 which states interalia: “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it” in support of the practice, but the argument against that is that, lent is NOT a period of mourning and Christians observing it are neither grieving nor lamenting!

If Jesus Christ is our model as Christians, we should simply ask ourselves if He at any time, used ash on His forehead before fasting or did He ever ask us to place ash on our foreheads to start lent? The answer will help you understand better what we are discussing.

Like many practices of Christians, the Ash Wednesday has an origin in a non-Christian tradition but incorporated by earliest religionists, for reasons best known to them.

It therefore means that, as a Christian, you are not under any obligation to observe the as Wednesday or put a cross mark on your forehead before you fast. It simply has no bearing on the acceptability of your fast or otherwise before God Almighty.

So, if you are a Christian and you just read this, what is your opinion? Write them below

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