Ash Wednesday is today. It was an important holiday to the Knights Templar who followed four of these forty day fasts each year, this one — Great Lent — being the greatest.
The Hidden Lighthouse says:
“In the Catholic churches the branches of the sago palm are blessed on Palm Sunday. The acceptable way to dispose of such blessed palms is to burn them.[The ashes are then saved all year until Ash Wednesday comes]
The ashes from these burnt palms are applied to the foreheads of Catholics on Ash Wednesday and the remainder of the ashes are left in shallow bowl at the entrance of the church as a reminder of our ashen mortality during the rest of Lent.
There in that ancient ritual of the Catholic church is the phoenix, the palm, and the ashes all tied in together. Plus it helps one to see the deep spirituality that [J.K.] Rowling has embedded in the stories of little Harry Potter, the quintessential Ego, a young kid taking on the ancient dark forces of evil and conquering them.
Smith also notes the connection between phoenix and the palm tree because Phoenix in Greek means palm tree.”
“The significant rite of the beginning of Lent is the signing with the ashes on Ash Wednesday. The sign of the cross is traced upon the forehead with the words, “Remember Thou, O soul, that thy body is dust and unto dust it shall return.” These words signify a release from the identification of the self with the mortal and corruptible body and personality. A detachment from our conventional identification with our mortal shell can result in an altered state of consciousness where our bodies can communicate to us a spiritual reality and we can develop in actuality a more caring attitude toward it. St. Francis often referred to his mortal frame as his humble and dutiful “donkey” that bore him through this life, like the donkey that bore the blessed Virgin to Bethlehem.” — Read the rest of this Homily for Ash Wednesday here.
“Today is Ash Wednesday, starting Lent, the lead-up to Easter. On Ash Wednesday traditionally the palms from Palm Sunday are burned and the ashes are placed by the priest on devotees’ mid-forehead (same place as the spiritual eye).