Ash Wednesday is the start of a roughly 40 day Christian holiday known as Lent. This is celebrated in various ways, but is generally a time of cleansing. This holiday is an ancient memory of Jesus' birthday. Dust you are and to dust you shall return.
The date for Ash Wednesday is chosen because it precedes by 40 days the entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday is itself driven by a complex formula for Easter. The Easter date formula differs by different Christian traditions. So Ash Wednesday varies each year by tradition and current formula.
In actual practice, Lent now counts days in that 40 day interval by skipping certain days between Ash Wednesday at Palm Sunday, so in actual practice Lent 40 is days long, but is more than 40 calendar days ahead of Palm Sunday. Such are Christian holidays.
The common Catholic practice of Lent involves a late Wednesday night service. In the service each person in attendance walks to the front and the priest marks a cross on everyone's forehead. The material used is ash, often dispensed from a small crucible. The priest then pronounces, "Dust you are, and to dust you shall return."
The ash used in this ceremony is thus matched to the name of the holiday.
This quote is pronounced over each person, but it effectively ends the service as people are dismissed from this point.
That Ash Wednesday quote springs from a verse in Genesis 3 where Adam is told that he is made from the dust of the earth and to dust he will return.
19By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19 NIV
19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:19 KJV
This particular quote for this particular holiday is insightful. It is a memory of the structure of Jesus' earthly life that started at his birthday.
Jesus's Life Repetition
In a previous article I touched on the idea that Jesus' earthly life was a prophetic repetition of the timeline of Adam given in the Old Testament.
That repetition principle means that Jesus' birthday was a prophetic match to the fall of Adam, normally considered Adam's first mortal year.
Jesus In Temple At 40 Days
In another previous article I showed how Jesus was first presented in the temple after the 40 days of his mother's cleansing.
The Mosaic Law proscribes a time of 40 days of cleansing for sons, and 80 days for daughters. So Mary could not go to the temple for the first 40 days of Jesus' life.
The various prophetic words given over her son were from people who were in the city for the purpose of Passover. They were encountering Jesus at that date.
Does the cleansing season of Lent start to feel like Mary's cleansing? It should.
In yet another previous article I showed how Jesus was born on 17 February, 1 AD. This is in the general season about 40 days ahead of the spring holidays, Passover and now Easter.
The first day of Jesus life, that February day in 1 AD, was a prophetic replay of the first year of Adam’s life. Jesus’ entire life replayed all the years from Adam up to Jesus and his birth. That structural map to Jesus’ life means that Jesus’ first day was a replay of Adam’s fall.
The main verse that captures the tone of Adam's fall? The same verse quoted above, "Dust you are, to dust you will return."
Ash Wednesday remembers Adam’s fall. The point? The Ash Wednesday holiday is the Church celebration, carried down through 2 millennium, of Jesus’ birthday.
By setting the date on a Wednesday it does not align exactly on the February 17 date each year, but it does align with Lent and Passover and Easter and that aligns with Mary’s cleansing.
It also roughly lines up well with Jesus’ 40 days of fasting a year before the end of his public ministry.
The practice of Lent, as a season of cleansing is likely matched to the time of cleansing his mother went through across those days.
Mary may have continued to practice this season herself, leading to the latter Lent practices.
Long Distance Triangulation
There are several long distance time intervals that point at Jesus' resurrection. In the next article we look at those stories.