A Preview of Ash Wednesday


As the priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead with the ashes, they say: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Ecclesiastes 3:20)

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season, Lent, which is a period of forty days in preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Within these forty days, christians indulge in reflection and self-examination. Reverend Simopoulos explains: “These 40 days are a time to look inward, to examine one’s conscience, and to ask some basic questions about one’s life: Who am I? Who do I want to become? How can I live a meaningful life?”

During Lent, many Christians decide to fast or live without something important to them. For example, some people may give up eating chocolate, watching television, being on social media, etc. Some individuals decide to give up more serious habits that undermine their positivity in life (such as an addiction or constant fighting with their family). Many beneficial habits and hobbies can also be gained throughout this process like journaling, meditating daily, or committing to some kind of weekly service enrichments. “Lent is not just for Christians. The process of self-examination is a human endeavor; it is a part of what it means to live an authentic and meaningful life aimed at transformation of the self and the world,” said Rev. Simopoulos. Lent is about avoiding and eliminating things that are not helpful to ourselves and taking on habits that improve our lives. 

During the Ash Wednesday service on February 26th, participants will be open to numerous activities. Bishop Susan Brown Snook will be present throughout the service, and she will share a reflection regarding the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the invitation of Lent. Following the reflection, participants will be invited to receive the imposition of ashes on their foreheads as the sign of a cross. 

Students often ask me where the ashes come from and what they mean,” says Rev. Simopoulos, “The ashes come from the palms that were used during last year’s Palm Sunday services. Those palms are dried out over the course of the year, put to the fire, and made into ash. The ashes are a symbol of two things. One, our mortality, and two, penitence.” The ashes remind individuals that life is short and every day should be viewed as a miracle. The ashes also highlight individuals’ commitment to avoid negativities and to advance towards life-giving things. “They are a reminder that before we can heal and transform the world around us, we need to heal and transform ourselves,” explained Rev. Simopoulos.