This year, Ash Wednesday will happen on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Those who plan to get ashes will go to mass or church service and receive the ash crosses on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday always occurs six and a half weeks before Easter, encompassing the 40 day period of Lent. Easter is on Sunday, April 12, 2020 this year.
If you’re familiar with Ash Wednesday—also known as the Day of Ashes—then you know that every year, people receive dark ash marks on their foreheads in the sign of a cross. Even if you’re not familiar with getting ashes, you’ve probably seen people walking around the grocery store or your office on Ash Wednesday displaying these black streaks. What’s the reason behind the ashes and why are they given on this day?
The ashes are meant to symbolize both death and repentance in order to begin Lent in a solemn, humble way. This is said to allow people to reflect on their sins throughout Lent before Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Most churches use palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service to create the ash. When Christians receive ashes, the priest or pastor says, “From dust you came and from dust you will return.”
Humans commit sins. We commit sins against God's creatures, ourselves and other humans. Take time to reflect on sins - big and little. If we humbly ask forgiveness, God will forgive. How about our pets? Do they forgive us? Dogs do forgive, but it may not be a forgiveness we recognize. Dogs feel emotions, but theirs are not as complex as humans. Dogs feel at about the same level as a toddler...they experience basic emotions like fear, happiness, distress and love. They do not feel complicated emotions rooted in memory and social relationships such as shame, guilt or pride. Because dogs don't hold grudges, they cannot necessarily "forgive" in the true sense of the word.
How about when dogs "commit sins"? Like that accidental pee on the new carpet. Or the shredding of one of your favorite slippers. If you witnessed the "sin" then you may have also noticed the drooping ears, big eyes and "wagless" tail. And if you did not respond to these signs your dog may have started to nudge your leg with his/her head; shortly followed by the delivery of his/her favorite toy. Dogs acknowledge their "sins" and live to please us. Just as we should live to please God. And in doing so, we will please our pets.