Re-posted from March 17, 2009. The original title was Ash Wednesday, Lent, (and p.s. Mardi Gras) The only change is the date in line 2.
Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter, 40 days if you don’t count Sundays. This year it fell on February 22nd. This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of preparation for Holy Week. At an Ash Wednesday service, part of the ceremony is placing ashes on the forehead as an outward symbol that you will be observing Lent. During the 40 day period something is given up, anything typically important to the individual, and more time spent in prayer, worship and meditation. Lent is about preparing ourselves spiritually to observe Holy Week, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter.
Palm Sunday is one week before Easter, and celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to celebrate Passover. The crowd shouted “Hosanna”, and waved palm branches. Actual palm branches may be used in a Palm Sunday service, and those branches will be saved until next year, burned, and the ashes used during the Ash Wednesday service mentioned above. The same Jews shouting “Hosanna” at Jesus’ entry would be shouting “Crucify him” just a few days later.