Thursday, March 02, 2006

Our Need to Repent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. As a former Roman Catholic, I remember going to church and having ashes placed on my forehead by a priest. He would say, "From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return." Quite a sobering realization! As a child, I remember thinking how small I am compared to the awesomeness of God!

The Christian fellowship I attend does not follow the Ash Wednesday ritual. Therefore, I no longer follow or adhere to this, as well as other traditions that are often unique to Catholicism (although some Protestant denominations also follow the Ash Wednesday tradition).

My studies over the past 18 years or so have shown me that the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the discipline of Sola Scriptura is where truth is found. IMO, this helps one avoid any mixture of error which could seep in through unbiblical traditions. However, I think that the observance of Ash Wednesday is one example of where this particular type of Catholic observance/tradition got it right. I may no longer physically have ashes placed on my forehead for repentance purposes, but my need to repent is still present.

I found two websites that give good explanations about the observance of Ash Wednesday.

The first one was from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. There are dozens of additional links included in the description for Ash Wednesday. I didn't have the time to research all of the links, but I'm sure that many questions one might have in regards to Ash Wednesday would be answered there.

The second one is located at Explore Faith that includes the most frequently asked questions and a detailed message for the purpose of Ash Wednesday.

I particularly liked the following paragraphs from the Explore Faith site:

"On Ash Wednesday we come to church to kneel, to pray, and to ask God’s forgiveness, surrounded by other sinners. Human sin is universal; we all do it, not only Christians. But our church tradition sets aside Ash Wednesday as a particular day to address sin and death. We do this mindful that "God hates nothing God has made and forgives the sins of all who are penitent." We are ALL sinners, no better and no worse than our brothers and sisters. This is not a day to compete ("my sins are worse than yours are"), but to confess….
Ash Wednesday is the gateway to Lent. We have forty precious days to open ourselves up most particularly to God, to examine ourselves in the presence of one who created us, knows us, and loves us. We have forty days to face ourselves and learn to not be afraid of our sinfulness. We are dust, and to dust we shall return, but with God’s grace we can learn to live this life more fully, embracing our sinfulness, allowing God to transform us."

The Wikipedia site states:

"At Masses and Services of worship on this day, worshippers are blessed with ashes by the celebrating priest or minister. The priest or minister marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes, in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown. The symbolism echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one's head signifying repentance before God (as related numerous times in the Bible). The priest or minister offers the worshipper an instruction while applying the ashes. These are three examples:
"Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." (Latin: Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.)
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."
"Repent, and hear the good news."


A message that ALL of mankind truly needs to hear...

Repent, and hear the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior (ΙΧΘΥΣ) *- Don't leave earth without Him!

*Notes: The ichthys or fish symbol represents Christianity
Ichthys (Greek: ἰχθύς; also transliterated and latinized

There are several hypotheses as to why the fish was chosen. The most probable is that it is a reference to the scripture in which Jesus miraculously feeds 5000 people with fish and bread (Matthew 14:15-21, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:4-13). The ichthys also may relate to Jesus as a "fisher of men," or an acronym of the Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ (Iota Chi Theta Upsilon Sigma) to the statement of Christian faith "᾿Ιησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτῆρος" (Iēsous Christos Theou Huios Sōtēros: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior").

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