Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A look at Ash Wednesday

The first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

The Rev. Ed Gretchko of St. Mary's Catholic Church burns palm leaves that were blessed on Palm Sunday of 2012 to be used at the Ash Wednesday service. No Published Caption

By Staff reports staff report

Posted Feb 12, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

MASSILLON — Here are some facts about Ash Wednesday, as observed today in Western Christianity. Ash Wednesday takes place 40 days prior to Easter Sunday — Sundays are not included in the count — and serves as the beginning of Christians’ spiritual preparation for the sacred holiday.

Palm-burning ceremony

Earlier this week, palm branches that were blessed and distributed to parishioners on Palm Sunday a year ago were burned by area churches in preparation for Ash Wednesday.

“They (palm branches) have been blessed and carried in procession,” said the Rev. Edward Gretchko of St. Mary Catholic Church in Massillon. “Usually, most people put (palm branches) in their homes over a crucifix or pictures of the saints as a constant reminder that Christ is King.”

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, which follows Shrove Tuesday and features Mardi Gras celebrations, signals the beginning of the 40-day period of spiritual reflection and preparation known as Lent — a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, meaning “spring” — that culminates with Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Ashes from the burned palm branches will be used today during services at area churches. Pastors will spread ashes on the foreheads of their parishioners in the sign of a cross.


The ashes are representative of the mortality of the human race and repentance of sins.

“Ashes are put on the forehead as a sign that one day we will return to dust. Primarily, it’s a sign of our mortality. Secondly, it’s a sign of our penance. ... Basically, it’s about the conversion of the heart and controlling the passions,” Gretchko said. “By turning our heart away from the things of earth, we enter into his passion and suffering and death. ... It highlights something we must always be doing, but it gives us renewed vigor.”

Spiritual renewal

Lent is viewed as a time of purification and enlightenment for those preparing for baptism and a time of repentance and spiritual renewal for those who already have been baptized, according to the Rev. Thomas Cebula of St. Barbara Catholic Church in Massillon.

“Those who are not baptized are preparing and those who already have been baptized are going through a renewal of baptismal vows,” Cebula said. “It’s a 40-day period of spiritual reconditioning. It’s a time of prayer, fasting and works of mercy.”

Ash Wednesday services in Massillon

◦St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 206 Cherry Road NE, 8:15 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m.

◦St. Joseph Catholic Church, 322 Third St. SE, 8:30 a.m., 12:10 p.m. and 7 p.m.

◦St. Barbara Catholic Church, 2813 Lincoln Way W., 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

◦Central Presbyterian Church, 47 Second St. NE, 7 p.m.

◦St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 127 Cherry Road NE, 7 p.m.

◦First United Methodist Church, Epworth United Methodist and Wesley United Methodist (combined service at Epworth, 3061 Lincoln Way W), 7 p.m.

◦St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 226 Third St. SE, 12:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m.



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