People all over the world today are observing Ash Wednesday, a day on the Christian calendar that marks the beginning of Lent and reminds us of the frailty of our lives and our need for repentance. Quite a few observers posted prayers for the war in Ukraine, while others focused on God’s love or offered humor.
“Ash Wednesday is not a day to manufacture guilt,” said Pastor Rich Villodas. “It’s a day to recognize our brokenness, frailty, and trust in God’s love. It’s a day to freely come before God and declare, ‘I am human, I am dust, and I am loved.’”
“Have a blessed Ash Wednesday,” said actor Mark Wahlberg, posting a picture of himself with the traditional cross-shaped ashes on his forehead. Wahlberg, who is Catholic, included a video where he said, “God bless you, and happy start to a Lenten season. Please, make sure we continue to spread love and pray for everybody all over the world.”
Ash Wednesday Begins Season of Lent
As we have written before at ChurchLeaders, Lent is a season in the Christian liturgical calendar that anticipates Jesus’ resurrection; it starts on Ash Wednesday and ends during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Other seasons in the Christian calendar include Advent, Easter, and Ordinary Time.
Some believers reject the observation of Lent as an unbiblical, man-made tradition, but the roots of Lent go back to the practices of Christian converts in the early church, who would fast in preparation for being baptized on Easter morning. Eventually, Lent became associated with Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness.
It is common for modern Christians to choose something to fast from during Lent, whether a type of food, habit, or some comfort. Participants can break their Lenten fast on Sundays, which are “feast days” that foreshadow Easter.
“You don’t need to observe Ash Wednesday. This isn’t a command,” says Colorado pastor Glenn Packiam. “But it is a beautiful way to join with the Church—for the past 1,200 years—and with the people of God—for thousands of years before that!—and humbly repent and seek God’s face.”
Several people have used this year’s Ash Wednesday to focus on the war in Ukraine. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted, “On #AshWednesday we face our frailty and mortality. As we are invited to place all of our hope in God’s triumph over death and destruction through Christ, we pray especially for Ukraine and all those who are suffering, scared, and aware of fragility today.”
Pope Francis also posted a tweet for Ash Wednesday, alluding to the war and calling on believers to “dedicate themselves intensively to prayer and fasting.” President Biden observed Ash Wednesday and prayed for the people of Ukraine. The president also declined to answer why he “supports abortion as a Catholic.”
Dr. Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director for Tearfund, gave an Ash Wednesday meditation and prayer focused on Ukraine, saying, “Ash Wednesday acknowledges the brokenness of this world, while also pointing us to the ultimate reconciliation and peace that we can all experience with God through his son Jesus.”
Valerio prayed that the war in Ukraine would end, adding, “Please bring comfort, safety and provision for those fleeing the war or trapped in their homes. We pray for wisdom for political leaders, and we pray that in this darkness you would shine a light.”