Today Wednesday, 22 February 2012 is Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils) used to anoint those about to be baptized, though some churches use ordinary oil. This paste is used by the priest who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross first upon his own forehead and then on each of those present who kneel before him. We don't kneel at the altar rail - there isn't room - those days have long gone.
The priest or minister says one of the following when applying the ashes: "Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. (Book of Genesis)
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." (Gospel of St Mark)
"Repent, and hear the good news." (Gospel of St Mark)
So Lent is a time for reflection, repentance and reconciliation for believers. I'll be off to receive my ashes this evening in the hope of getting my Lent off to a good start. In my case it also means duct tape because keeping my mouth shut when certain untoward things happen is difficult. During Lent I make an even more concerted effort to try to be a better person which of course, doesn't always work and one of the ways I do that is by keeping my mouth shut if I haven't got anything good to say.
Anyone who has been following me for at least a couple of years knows that for Lent, I always ask for plenty of duct tape - wholesale!