Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting and repentance.
It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and marks the first day of Lent which is the six weeks of penitence before Easter.
Christian denominations which observe Ash Wednesday include Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians.
The observance derives its name from placing ashes on the foreheads of participants, and is regarded as a sign of repentance and sober reflection which characterises the Lenten season.
Ash Wednesday thus in this regard reinforces the call to repentance and besides believing the gospel or the dictum “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”.
Besides engaging in penitence, repentance of sins and self denial, Lent is also a period marked by alms giving.
Lent lasts for forty days in commemoration of the forty days which, Jesus spent in the desert after which he endured temptation by the devil before beginning his evangelical ministry.
Depending on the Christian denomination or local customs, Lent ends on the evening of Thursday, described as Holy Thursday.
Also, Easter vigil is held at sundown on Holy Saturday, on Easter Sunday morning or at the midnight between them.
Although, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the event leading up to Jesus crucifixion.
During Lent, purple which is the symbolic colour used in some churches does not only signify mourning and a reflection of the pain and suffering in the crucifixion of Christ but also symbolises royalty and Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty.
The occasion used to be marked in some churches by devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying of the cross and of his crucifixion.
In addition, some Protestants churches and many Roman Catholic removed flowers from their altars, while crucifixes, religious statues and other elaborate religious symbols are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of the event.
Today, Lenten traditions and liturgical practices are less common, less binding and sometimes nonexistent among some liberal and progressive Christians.
As Christians observe Lent this year, it is important that they use the period not only to renounce vices but also reflect on their contributions to the well-being of the nation.
Moreover, Christians as a whole should see the period as a time to seek divine intervention for the nation to overcome her present challenges.