In the present Church calendar, Ash Wednesday is the first day of the observance of the forty days of Lent.
It takes its name from the solemn ceremony of the liturgy of the day ashes are blessed and marked on the foreheads of the faithful in the form of a cross with the accompanying words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
It is thus a solemn call to penance so that one may enjoy eternal life.
Ash Wednesday was established as the first day of Lent by St. Gregory the Great (590 to 604). Pope Paul VI declared this movable observance to be a day of universal fasting and abstinence.
The Alleluia is not sung or said from the beginning of Lent until the Easter Vigil. During Lent the altar should not be decorated with flowers and musical instruments may be played only to give necessary support to the singing.
Lent continues until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. (9:13)