Marking the Beginning of Lent

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

On Wednesday, February 13 the School of Divinity held a service of worship for Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and the start of Lent’s Great Fast. The origins of Ash Wednesday are rooted in Jewish observances of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Both Lent and Yom Kippur emphasize fasting and self and communal reflection. Ash Wednesday practices date from the 8th century and the earliest full Christian liturgy we have for the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday is from the 10th Century in Rome. The ancient practices of pouring of ashes on one’s body and dressing in sackcloth served as an outward manifestation of inner repentance of mourning. Christian worshippers today mark their foreheads with ashes to mark the start of Lent’s 40 days of fasting. Why ashes? In Scripture, ashes symbolize death (Genesis 18:27), judgment (Ezekiel 28:18), lament (Esther 4:3), and repentance (Jonah 3: 6). Ashes are also associated in the bible with fasting (Daniel 9:3 and Isaiah 58:5). Some burial liturgies include the phrase, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” spoken as dirt is sprinkled into the gravesite; both the ashes and the dust symbolize the finality of death. Both also symbolize life and growth. Fasting and feasing merge, it seems, as ashes and soil intermingle.

Below are some photos of the service that were featured in the Winston-Salem Journal. View them all online.

Related Events

Throughout Lent the School will host Praying through Lent, a weekly communal gathering for prayer on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7:40am until 7:55am in Davis Chapel (located in Wingate Hall on the campus of Wake Forest University). For more information click here.

Media Contact: Mark Batten

Categories: News, Spiritual Life