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Today marks the beginning of Lent worldwide. In many churches the Lenten season starts with the observance of Ash Wednesday. Services are held throughout the day to initiate the start of Lent.
After homilies, calculated to urge Christians to a level of piety not normally seen during the remainder of the year, ashes are placed on the foreheads of worshipers. The ashes, applied in the shape of the cross, are made from palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday services.
Lent marks the 40 weekdays until Good Friday. Sundays are not counted in the 40 day cycle. Not all churches observe Lent but even those churches who do not follow Lent, tend to observe Good Friday and Easter. Typically, Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopal churches make it a practice to observe Lent. Various reasons for not following Lent are given by non-observing religions such as pagan origins, early church infidelities, etc.
Many individuals seriously “give up” things or practices they adhere to during Lent. Some give up things they dearly love in their diet such as meat. Others might give up chocolate, adult beverages, or other things to show they are focusing upon the true spirit of the paschal season. It is a time of soul searching and serious penitence for many, including much fasting and prayer.
The end of this penitential, watchful season is of course Holy Week with it’s culmination in observing the awful events of the crucifixion on Good Friday, Christ’s tomb sojourn and his glorious resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week. This annual observance will continue until the Lord returns to claim his own.
If you’ve never experienced an Ash Wednesday service, I urge you to go to one today. You can find a number of them listed through a Google search using the search terms “Anchorage Alaska Ash Wednesday Services 2013”. Your Google search will be the same whether or not you use capital letters. On the first three Google search pages, I found the following Anchorage churches offering Ash Wednesday services. If they’ve announced them through the Anchorage Daily News, or on their church website that is. If churches only mention them in the church bulletin, it’s unlikely they will appear during your search.
Central Lutheran Church
St Patrick's Parish
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
St John UMC
Faith Lutheran Church
All Saints Episcopal Church
St Andrew Catholic Church
St Mary's Episcopal Church
First Presbyterian Church
First Congregational Church
Happy Ash Wednesday!