Remember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet. Notice how the day is worded “Wednesday before the First Sunday.” The main theme here is the imposition of ashes, the sign that draws out many believers from inactivity:
21. “On the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent, the faithful receive the ashes, thus entering into the time established for the purification of their souls. This sign of penance, a traditionally biblical one, has been preserved among the Church’s customs until the present day. It signifies the human condition of the sinner, who seeks to express his guilt before the Lord in an exterior manner, and by so doing express his interior conversion, led on by the confident hope that the Lord will be merciful. This same sign marks the beginning of the way of conversion, which is developed through the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance during the days before Easter”. (Cf. Ceremonial of Bishops, 253)
I think people are prepared to “begin” the journey to penitence. What will motivate us to continue on this pilgrimage to metanoia?
For those not celebrating Mass on Ash Wednesday, are you distributing ashes before the readings, as Rome directs?
The blessing and imposition of ashes should take place either in the Mass, or outside of the Mass. In the latter case it precedes the Liturgy of the Word which concludes with the prayer of the faithful. (Roman Missal, Ash Wednesday)
And outside of liturgy, all know this day is for abstaining from meat as well as fasting, right?
22. Ash Wednesday is to he observed as a day of penance in the whole Church, one of both abstinence and fasting. (Paul VI, Apost. Const. Paenitemini, II, 1; AAS 58 (1966) 103. canon law 1251)
The older form of Lenten discipline prescribed fasting without abstinence on Lenten Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays (and, in the USA and some other jurisdictions, Saturdays); Lenten Wednesdays and Fridays (and, in much of the rest of the Catholic world, Saturdays) were days of both fasting and abstinence. Now there are only two fast days of precept, and they are also days of abstinence.