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Residents observe Ash Wednesday
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Worshippers walk toward the front of First Baptist Church for an Ash Wednesday service. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter, falling between Feb. 4 and March 10. It is the day after Shrove Tuesday, known in some quarters as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.

Lent represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert and was tempted by Satan, according to the Bible’s Gospel chapters. The six Sundays in that period are feast days, rather than fasting days, during Lent.

Church officials often apply the ashes to worshippers’ foreheads, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary and online sources, as a reminder of human mortality and a sign of penitence.

The Rev. Bill Coates preached to his congregation at First Baptist Church in Gainesville on Wednesday night that “Lent is the world we live in,” listing poverty, terror, violence and sickness as foibles man must deal with on Earth. “We all are broken,” Coates said. Coates noted not all Baptist churches traditionally celebrate Lent.

Lent ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter.

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