Many in Atascosa County commemorated Ash Wednesday on March 6, which includes the marking of ashes of foreheads.
For Catholics, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Not only Catholics, but also some Protestant denominations, such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and United Methodists, distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Father Prasanna Mese of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pleasanton said that Ash Wednesday is not just an obligation, but “it marks the beginning of the period of salvific life,” referring to Jesus’ solemn path towards his crucifixion and resurrection, his moment of salvation for Christians.
The distribution of ashes derives from Christian tradition. Rev. Mese noted Biblical passages from the third chapter of the book of Genesis (“you are dust and to dust you shall return”) and the 42nd chapter, verse four of the book of Job (“I am made of dust”) to explain the Biblical roots of ashes.
Mostly, ashes are burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, which is celebrated a week before Easter.
During Ash Wednesday, the pastor blesses the ashes with holy water. Then, the pastor and other ministers distribute the ashes by marking them in the sign of the cross on the forehead. With the marking of ashes is stated either the phrase “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
“The ashes are not just dumped on your forehead. They are marked with the sign of the cross. You are admitting, ‘I am mortal,’” Father Mese said, referring to how the ashes symbolize mortality.