Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent in the Christian calendar, has been observed by christian in Nigeria for centuries. Its exact date changes every year, because it is determined by the dates of Easter. But it is always the day after Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and it always falls in February or March. This year, it is on March 6.
In 2016, the Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Rev John cardinal Onyakun , suggested that Easter should fall on the same date each year. The plan, which would schedule the Christian festival on the same Sunday each year, was welcomed by parents and schools but angered some traditionalists.
At present, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox around March 21. This means it can fall on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
The name Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of either marking a cross on a church-goer’s forehead with ash, or the sprinkling of ash on their forehead, which is believed to have been ritualized by Pope Urban II as far back as 1091.
Both the Catholic and Methodist churches use the ashes of palm branches blessed at the previous year’s Palm Sunday service, while the Church of England say the ashes ‘may be made’ from the previous year’s ashes.
As the ash is placed on the church-goer’s forehead, traditionally the words ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ are said.
Sometimes, the mark is left on the forehead to show that they carry the sign of the cross into the world. At other services, the ashes are washed off as a sign that the worshipper has been cleansed of their sins.
Often the colour purple is used in churches throughout Lent. Associated with mourning, and therefore the suffering of the crucifixion, it can often be seen on drapes and altar frontals. The colour is also symbolic of royalty and celebrates the resurrection and sovereignty.
Some people fast for the whole period of Lent, as a reflection of Jesus’ sacrifice in the Judean desert. Some Christians fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, that is the Friday before Easter Sunday.
Christians have been called to repentance with all sense of urgency, as they embark on Lenten season, the Parish Priest of Holy Family catholic, life Camp, Revend Father Anthony Olaniyon SMA, made the call in his homily.
The man of God who made the call doing this year’s Ash Wednesday mass, encouraged faithfuls to carry out their Lenten works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as always and beyond the season of Lent.
He emphazied the urgent need to turn to the Lord to seek for his mercy.
Rev. Fr. Anthony said “as Christians we are called to be humble and meek, take away pride and arrogance, the ash on our foreheads, signify that man is brought low from his wealth, beauty, pride, arrogance, as mere sand and nothing before God”.
He added that men are mere mortal therefore Ash Wednesday is equally a reminder that we are made from dust and unto dust we shall return.