Why does my boss have a smudged cross on his forehead today?

Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation for Catholics and is largely ignored by most Evangelicals and Pentecostals. So, why does it endure?

So, your boss shows up to work a few minutes late with an odd black smudge on his forehead and something tells you not to mention it, even though everybody’s headed into a manager’s meeting.

1(Photo by Matthew Tietje/Flickr)

Not mentioning it is a good call on your part. He knows it’s there – he attended an early morning Ash Wednesday service marking the beginning of Lent, the 40 days before Easter.

“Ash Wednesday is the name given to the first day of the season of Lent, in which the pastor applies ashes to the foreheads of Christians to signify repentance,” writes Lutheran theologian Dr. Richard P. Bucher.

Not all Christians celebrate Ash Wednesday. For Roman Catholics, it’s entirely optional. It’s generally ignored by Evangelicals such as Southern Baptists as well as Pentecostals in such churches as the Assemblies of God. Eastern Orthodox churches officially begin Lent on Monday – and so do not observe Ash Wednesday at all. But it’s celebrated by many Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Anglicans, writes Mary Fairchild.

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3A Protestant Ash Wednesday service (US. Navy Photo/Wikimedia)

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