Ash Wednesday at Xavier


Xavier College Preparatory’s Ash Wednesday Service 2020. Photo Credit: Xavier College Prep. Instagram

MaggieMae Dethlefsen, Club Writer

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” These are the words that Catholics hear when they receive their ashes on Ash Wednesday. This celebration takes place forty six days before Easter and reminds us of the dust that God made us from. The previously blessed palm branch ashes are mixed with Holy Water and symbolize penance and contrition. We wear the ashes on our foreheads as a visible sign of penance as well as a  sign of our grief from our division with God. This practice is open to everyone, not just Christians or Catholics. This year on February 26, 2020, the Xavier community will join the rest of the universal church in this celebration.  


The tradition of Ash Wednesday was not originally a Catholic celebration. The Catholic Church adopted this tradition at the council of Nicea. The council of Nicea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers. It was convened by the emperor Constantine to resolve the controversy of Arianism, a doctrine that held that Christ was not divine but was a created being. This tradition did not initially mark the start of lent, as it was originally set as the fourth Sunday of each year. In 601 Pope Gregory moved it to Ash Wednesday. With this change came the forty days of fasting, plus six Sundays which act as “ mini- Easters” or feast days. This makes Lent forty-six days, but since Easter is on a Sunday we do not count Sundays in the count of the time of fasting. Pope Gregory renewed the tradition of marking people on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross. Even in Biblical stories, it mentions people who got marked with ashes and it was often coupled with fasting. 


 Ash Wednesday is a solemn mass and day of repentance and fasting. Though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, many attend mass to receive their ashes. After this mass, many go home and fast, keeping the rest of their day simple. Xavier has an Ash Wednesday mass every year where students, faculty, and staff have the chance to receive their ashes. We will come together to celebrate mass and in that mass receive our ashes. As we come together we and the universal Church will be asking God “ create in me a clean heart O God.”