Headless Frank...

advisor to the lovelorn, weary, confused, and the overly self-involved

headless frank

Dear Headless Frank:

Please explain Ash Wednesday to this backslidden Baptist. I can't seem to find it in the Bible.
—Gary, Spring TX

Dear Gary—
The Bible doesn’t talk specifically about Ash Wednesday. It would’ve been nice if it did. However, I think the Good Book has some clues about why Catholics and Episcopalians like to wear ashes on their foreheads one day every year. So I’ll give it my best shot.

The Bible does refer to an ancient custom in which people put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of shame. You can imagine why your fellow Baptists and others might not want to get in on this.

OR on the Bible also telling people that, QUOTE: "You are dust and to dust you shall return." It’s a little reminder of your origins so you don’t get uppity.

People put ashes on their foreheads to remind themselves that they came from dust and COULD GO RIGHT BACK THERE if they don’t get God’s help. They use ashes instead of ordinary dust because they show up better, I guess. I mean, if you’re going to do shame, make sure it shows up, right?

It’s a little weird that some people seem to wear this sign of shame with pride.

Also ironic is the universal assumption in our society today that if anyone actually put on sackcloth it would be considered ostentatious. But, people being people, you can bet there are plenty of Google searches for "Oscar de la Renta sackcloth" and "Ralph Lauren sackcloth." (This might be why you’re in danger of turning back to dust.)

And why the ashes on Wednesday? I don’t think the word "Wednesday" is ever mentioned in the Bible, although one of the wise men may have made a comment about hump day, probably because he was tired and bored after a long day of camel riding.

Nevertheless, I assume Wednesday is "the third day" noted in Genesis. And guess what God created that day: The earth! Yep, dust. So you figure if you were created on a Wednesday, you probably should be returned on Wednesday (even if it’s only your forehead).

FYI, water also was created on Wednesday and I suspect some churches add a little water to their ashes so they will make a very dark mark that you can’t just wipe off on your way back to the office.

So, I think Ash Wednesday is saying, "Own it."

But just for the day.

After that, you can remember that you’re only dust without God, but WITH God, you can have an amazing life and you never have to be dust (or ashes) again.

Signing off: Medulla oblongata.