The true meaning of Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent Season. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates Ash Wednesday by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance. It is a day of contemplating one’s transgressions. Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days, more exactly 40 days excluding Sundays before Easter. Usually it is moveable as it depends on the date of Easter. The use of ashes in repentance is a common practice in Bible times. To dust yourself with ashes is a way of expressing sorrow for your sins.

Growing up as an Independent Fundamental Baptist we never observed ash Wednesday. Fundamental Baptist as much as possible stay away from observing traditions made by the Roman Catholics in order to make a distinction. I have no problem with this considering that the Philippines labels itself as a “Christian” nation. More than 90 % of this country claims to be Christians. But the sad truth remains that there are only a few real Christians. So in order to distinguish themselves from “Roman Catholic Christianity,” Fundamental Baptist rarely observes the traditions followed by the Roman Catholic church. One can really see the need to make a distinction.

I have no problem if people observed ash Wednesday or not. Some evangelical denominations like the United Methodists church, Reformed churches, Church of the Nazarene, Anglican/Episcopal churches, Lutheran churches and even some Baptist denomination in the U.S.A and other parts of the world celebrate Ash Wednesday.

The true meaning of Ash Wednesday is that it means nothing if the heart of the person has not truly genuinely repented. You can cloth yourself in sackcloth and put ashes in your head as what is done in Biblical times or you can bathe yourself in ashes. You can abstain from meat or even go on fasting for several days. (No more need for diet pills if you do this every day!) You can even rid yourself of all things “worldly.” But the truth of the matter is if deep in your heart you have not truly repented it means nothing. Observing the outside rituals are all useless. What is important is what is inside your heart.

The Hebrew word for repentance is two beautiful words. It is the words “shuv” which means “to return” and “nicahm” which means to feel sorry. The Koine Greek word is even more beautiful. It is the word “Metanoia” which is a combination of the preposition ‘meta’ which means “after” and the verb “noeo” which means the result of perceiving. Combining the preposition and the verb we come up with the meaning of “Metanoia” which is “To think differently after.” To be truly in repentance or to be truly in Metanoia is to think differently after perceiving your condition. It is a change of mind which is accompanied by regret and change of conduct. An example of true “Metanoia” is found in the story of the prodigal son as written in Luke Chapter 15.

Repentance is a necessary component of Salvation. Without real and genuine repentance there can be no real Salvation. (Acts 20: 21, Romans 10:9 and 10) Real and genuine repentance is God-given, Spirit-led change of heart and mind.


Most people who profess to be Christians who observed Ash Wednesday think that they have already “repented.” For them it is enough that they go to church have ashes written in their foreheads, abstain from “worldly” pleasures for one day and then that’s it. The next day, weeks or months they go back to their old ways sinning like they used to do as before, until the next ash Wednesday or Lent season comes next year. These people have failed to grasp the true meaning of Ash Wednesday. Sadly, they have not truly repented. They have failed to grasp the true meaning of repentance.

What about you? Have you truly repented? Do you understand what it means to truly repent of your sins? Are you saved? Are you sure that you will go to heaven when you die? Are you freed from the burden of sins? Are you sick and tired of your life? Do you want real change? Perhaps you would like to understand what true repentance really is. Click here to view this presentation entitled “Another interview with God.” You might also want to view the Gospel tract “Who do you think I am

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One Response to The true meaning of Ash Wednesday

  1. Sally says:

    I am a Roman catholic by birth. To know more about my religion, I read books and other published materials of the Roman catholic, other Christian denominations, other religions aside from Christianity. Of all the things I learned, there is only one thing that determines our sincerity of all the things that we do when performing our religious rituals: love. This is aptly explained in 1Cor13.

    For me, Lent, as commenced by Ash Wednesday, is an opportunity for inward examination of my words and actions of the past year, thereby an opportunity for a better self for the existing year.

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