Baylor hosts campus-wide Ash Wednesday services

Baylor students, staff and faculty had the opportunity to attend Ash Wednesday services from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Elliston Chapel. Those that attended received marks made of ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross to commemorate the first day of Lent. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Joy Moton | Staff Writer

Many students, faculty and visitors on Baylor’s campus walked around with ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads Wednesday. These people attended Baylor’s universitywide Ash Wednesday services held in Elliston Chapel at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

The services were led by Dr. Burt Burleson, university chaplain, and Carlos Colón, coordinator for worship initiatives. North Village resident chaplain Tierney Boss, who assisted with the services said the ceremonies were designed to usher in the first day of Lent. Lent serves as a period of time for Christians to repent of their sins and reflect on the suffering of Christ leading up to the Holy Week. It’s specifically designed to commemorate the 40-day period where Jesus fasted and was tempted in the desert before he began his ministry.

Boss said Christians use this period of time to reflect on the suffering of Christ during his time in the wilderness by giving up something significant to them. Through giving something up, Christians are simultaneously suffering at the same time that Christ suffered leading up to his death.

“If the purpose of giving something up is to remember the suffering of Jesus, then it’s important to give up something that costs you something,” Boss said.

Boss said people who had conflicts with the service times had the option to participate in a silent, self-led liturgy where individuals could read a pamphlet with the Scripture passages and directions for a personal service. Once they were finished, ministers were available to give them ashes.

People who attended the scheduled services sang hymns, read passages from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, reflected in silence and received ashes. Boss said the practice is symbolic of Christians humbling themselves. As people walk up and the minister places ashes on their foreheads, the minister says, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”

A common misconception among Protestants is that Ash Wednesday is a tradition that can only be celebrated by people who are Catholic. Colón said that although Ash Wednesday is popular in Catholic tradition, its symbolic roots go all the way back to biblical times. In the books of Job and Jonah from the Old Testament of the Bible, people would throw ashes over their heads and wear sackcloth during a season of mourning Colón said. Christians have kept this tradition alive through Ash Wednesday by wearing ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross to symbolize their mourning, for their sins and repentant hearts for the crucifixion of Christ. Colón said that since every man has sinned, celebrating Lent should not be confined to one group of people.

“Who among us does not need to repent or express sorrow for our sins?” Colón said.

Colón said he has seen a number of churches throughout the Waco community embrace this tradition, and he hopes it continues to expand.

Edmond, Okla., junior Claire Wideman participated in Ash Wednesday and said as she grew up in the Presbyterian Church, she thought the practice was just a Catholic event, marking the beginning of Lent. She also saw the Lenten season as an excuse to purposefully better herself and get rid of some bad habits. After leaving the Presbyterian Church, she struggled through questions about her identity in Christ. She learned more about the Easter season from the Bible after starting to attend Harris Creek Baptist Church and began to realize the significance of worship through fasting.

“For me, Ash Wednesday is a day that serves as a more tangible reminder of the breadth of my sins and my need of a savior,” Wideman said. “It provides me with the time and the intention to take a step back from this hectic life and meditate on the great sacrifice of Jesus’s death for me. In recognizing this, I can then begin to attempt to bring increasingly more glory to God by fasting in this Lenten season.”