Why is it Ash Wednesday? A priest explains

Today, March 6, is Ash Wednesday. Photo: Flickr\SJV Denver

Today, March 6, is Ash Wednesday. Photo: Flickr\SJV Denver - Credit: Archant

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of repentance and reflection marking the first day of Lent - the six weeks of penitence leading up to Easter.

Rev Canon Ian Tarrant, Rector of St Mary's South Woodford Church

Rev Canon Ian Tarrant, Rector of St Mary's South Woodford Church - Credit: Archant

It falls 40 days before Easter, not including Sundays – the same length of time Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert.

“It is a time of saying sorry to God for everything we have done wrong,” said Rev Canon Ian Tarrant, Rector of St Mary’s, High Road, South Woodford.

The day sees worshippers mark their foreheads with ash in the shape of a cross.

Explaining the symbolism, Rev Ian said: “In many ancient cultures the use of Ash is a way to symbolize repentance.”

“It is something that has been destroyed, something that has been burnt.”

“It represents the desolation that follows after recognising that you have done wrong.”

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But he added: “As well as apologising, we also say that we will be better in the future.”

“It’s about asking for God’s power to improve ourselves.”