“Now therefore saith the Lord: Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride chamber. Between the porch and the altar the priests the Lord's ministers shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? The Lord hath been zealous for his land, and hath spared his people.”—Joel 2: 12-18 (Douay-Rheims Bible)
Ash Wednesday should be not so much a renunciation but, as the Old Testament prophet Joel indicates, a “turn to” God.
(The graphic accompanying this post shows the prophet Joel as imagined by Michelangelo, in a fresco on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508-1512)