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Chaplain's Reflections: What is Ash Wednesday?
  • Chaplain's Reflections
Rev. Kristin Sullivan, School Chaplain

What is Ash Wednesday? Rev. Kristin Sullivan, School Chaplain, explains what the service signifies, how we celebrate it at St. Mark's, and why it's important.

When we are baptized oil is used to mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross as the priest proclaims that we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ own forever!” On Ash Wednesday we begin our lenten journey by being marked with another cross, this time made out of ashes (often made from the palms used on the previous Palm Sunday). This cross reminds us that there are things we do that draw us away from God and make us forget the image of Christ that was placed in us. These ashes call us to repent and return to the Lord. They serve as an outward and visible sign of the change that we are desiring to make during the season of lent. A season that offers us a time to focus on coming closer to God as we prepare for the mystery of Easter.


Ash Wednesday also reminds us of our mortal nature. We have come from dust and to dust we will return. The words for the imposition of the ashes come from the Book of Genesis when God explains to Adam and Eve the consequence of their sin, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” But in the midst of this is the promise that God will always be with us. That our life goes on even in death.

Explaining Ash Wednesday to Children


We will explain what we are doing in chapel before we offer the imposition of Ashes. Please remind children that like communion, this is completely optional. If they do not want to receive ashes they can remain in their pews. You can remind them that the ashes symbolize that we are getting ready to enter into the season of Lent. During Lent we do things that help us to get closer to God. It is like spring training for followers of Jesus. The cross on our heads reminds us that we are getting ready for the mystery of Easter when Jesus died for us and rose again.

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