Ash Wednesday

Liturgical Color: Purple or Gray


Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter: we confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the service focus on the dual themes of sin and death in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

The visual environment is solemn and stark. Purple is the most traditional color throughout Lent; but on Ash Wednesday gray, with its suggestion of ashes, is especially appropriate. Dark earth colors or any somber hues are also appropriate. Rough, coarse textures such as burlap, sackcloth and ashes, suggest the character of the day in season.

The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship, and the imposition of ashes can be a powerful nonverbal and experiential way of participating the call to repentance and reconciliation. This practice is the historic focus of Ash Wednesday observance and gave the day its name. It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Passion/Palm Sunday service and burn them ahead of time to produce the ashes for this service.

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