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Explanation of the “Imposition of Ashes”

On Ash Wednesday we offer an ancient Church rite known as Imposition of Ashes.  Participation in this rite is entirely optional.  

We offer it because ashes being used as a sign of repentance is a common Biblical theme.  (See 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, and Jeremiah 6:26 for just a few examples.) Job, a model of faith who lived around 2000BC, used ashes as a sign of repentance. Therefore the Imposition of Ashes represents a connection of faith that we have with believers of all times.

Ashes also remind us that because of sin, our bodies will turn to dust. But because of Christ, our guilt is also dead and has been turned to ash.