The Rite Of Imposition Of Ashes
Receiving ashes on the forehead is a sign of repentance and faith in Christ. They are administered to the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)
The imposition of ashes is an ancient tradition of the church. In the Old Testament God's people rubbed ashes on their bodies, and wore clothing made of sackcloth as a sign of their repentance.
Why such action?
It involved all the senses so that sorrow over sin was not only an internal process. The mind can easily wander, but it's harder to lose focus covered with ashes, and the irritation of sackcloth clothing the body. Ashes also remind us of our mortality, brought about by sin. "You are dust and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19) Considering humanity’s talent for living in denial, and refusing to acknowledge unpleasant thoughts, such a reminder is always in season.
But ashes are not the final word! Christ is. He who is the spotless Lamb of God. The only-begotten Son of the Father. He who put on the ashes of human nature, and embraced the sack cloth of the cross in order to redeem us. He, as he is known in received in Christian liturgy, is our focus.
And so with sincere sorrow for our wrongs, and full faith and confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ who erases our sins from memory by his Cross, let us receive the ashes with humility, faith and joy.
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