All you need to know about Lent in three minutes

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday: You are invited and welcome -- 10 am at St Luke's

On Ash Wednesday, churchgoers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes as a sign of penitence and mortality. The use of ashes, made by burning palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday, is very symbolic.

The priest marks each worshipper on the forehead, and says remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return, or a similar phrase based on God’s sentence on Adam in Genesis 3:19.

The modern practice in Anglican churches nowadays is for the priest to dip his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person’s forehead, say: Remember, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return (or a variation on those words).

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Symbolism of the ashes

The marking of their forehead with a cross made of ashes reminds each churchgoer that:

  • Death comes to everyone
  • They should be sad for their sins
  • They must change themselves for the better
  • God made the first human being by breathing life into dust, and without God, human beings are nothing more than dust and ashes

The shape of the mark and the words used are symbolic in other ways:

  • The cross is a reminder of the mark of the cross made at baptism
  • The phrase often used when the ashes are administered reminds Christians of the doctrine of original sin
  • The cross of ashes may symbolise the way Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as atonement for sin replaces the Old Testament tradition of making burnt offerings to atone for sin

Where the ashes come from

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are made by burning the palm crosses that were blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday.

Source: BBC Religion

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