Why do we place ashes on our forehead each Ash Wednesday?
Ashes are rich in spiritual symbolism. We recall in the second chapter of Genesis, when the human person is fashioned “out of the dust of the ground” and receives the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). In death, a person returns to the ground from which we came. The ancient Hebrews used ashes as a sign of repentance, reminding themselves that God is God and we are not.
As the minister places ashes on our forehead, we hear either “remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” or “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” When we receive ashes, we remember our own mortality. We’re reminded that we have limited time on this earth and we ought to make the best use of it that we can! People are in need of love, care, and compassion. We all need to continually rediscover the love of God. The Gospel invites every person in every stage of life to encounter and imitate Jesus here and now. The forty days of Lent are the perfect time to assess our own awareness of these realities.