March 2, 2022 at 5:30 PM

Experience joy and renewal by participating in the age old Christian tradition of receiving ashes, of repentance, of turning to the Lord. You do not even need to be Catholic! Learn more below about receiving ashes.

Free church tour following the service. Get all your questions answered and learn about the oldest Christian religion at Jacksonville's newest Roman Catholic Mission.


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The purpose of using ashes, is a way of humbling yourself before God. Having ashes placed upon yourself is a way of saying, "I am nothing. I am dust." It is a reminder of the truth about yourself: that all you have--each breath you take, each day you wake, your family, your intellect, your talents--are undeserved gifts from God. Many have taken these gifts and responded by ignoring God, as if he had nothing to do with all that they have been given. Yet, when you openly and publicly affirm your failures, your nothingness, your view of the world and all that you have been given changes to gratefulness and joy. Repentance, vividly symbolized through ashes, is a moving means of renewal, of correcting your relationship with God. As the Bible states: when you humble yourself before him, in due time he will exalt you (1 Peter 5:6).

The practice of turning to the Lord, of repentance using ashes goes back to ancient times with evidence of this practice taking place nearly four thousand years ago. In the Bible, in the book named after himself, Job said in the nineteenth century BC, "therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (42:6). This practice was often repeated by God's people during times of sorrow and repentance and a way of being humbled before God. There are numerous examples throughout the Bible of using ashes as an external symbol of inward grief.  

Christians continued this practice with evidence of using ashes as a sign of repentance going back to the time of the early Christian write Tertullian (c. 160-225) and the historian Eusebius (c. 260-339). By the tenth century it was becoming customary for the faithful to receive ashes on the first day of Lent, the forty day period of preparation leading to Easter.

Though you can place ashes upon yourself privately, this action becomes especially moving and humbling when practiced publicly with others. The Catholic Mass of Ash Wednesday is an especially appropriate way to do this since through this experience you will reflect on scriptures of repentance, read and explained in a way that is helpful to your soul. Then the priest (Catholic word for pastor) blesses the ashes and the people come forward one by one as he places the ashes on each in the symbol of a cross saying to each, “Remember that though art dust, and unto dust shalt though return” while sorrowful music is sung in the background. It is a moving and sobering experience which touches the depths of the human soul. 

Though anyone can receive ashes, after the imposition of ashes comes the second part of the Mass, which Catholics call the Eucharist, a sacred ceremony of which you need to be a Catholic in good standing in order to fully participate by partaking of Holy Communion. Some chose to leave rather than stay for the second part of the service. Others, though not Catholic or Catholic but not prepared to fully participate and receive, stay and prayerfully mediate during this second part of the Mass. The choice is up to each individual. There is no obligation to stay for the second half of the Ash Wednesday Mass though many do choose to stay.