Local churches begin Lent with Ash Wednesday services

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | 1:53 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Wednesday marks the centuries-old tradition of Ash Wednesday, a holiday observed by Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other churches. Ash Wednesday is named for the use of burned palm leaves saved from Palm Sunday the previous year.

“It begins with placing ashes on the foreheads of those who come and with the words that ‘you are dust and unto dust you will return,'” Monsignor Michael Flanagan, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, said. “It’s a reminder who we are, that we came from nothing and we will go back to nothing.”

Several churches in Columbia burn the ashes themselves, but Our Lady of Lourdes purchases the ashes from a company.

The holiday is the official beginning of the season of Lent, which is a time of fasting and repentance before Easter.

"It’s not a big thing like some other religious celebrations that have become more cultural," St. Andrew's Lutheran Church senior pastor Paul Moessner said. "But it is something that people do resonate with."

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