Traditional Prayer:

God our Father, you create us from the dust of the earth.

Grant that these ashes may be for us a sign of our penitence, and a symbol of our mortality.

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

Read the full description of Ash Wednesday here.