Ash Wednesday inaugurates the season of Lent. During this special service we confront our mortality and confess our sins within the community of faith.
Some churches observe Ash Wednesday with distribution of ashes, reading prayers of repentance, and with other services offered from the pulpit.
In ancient days, people marked times of fasting, prayer, repentance, mourning, and remorse by placing ashes on their foreheads. During Lent, ancient Christians mourned their sins and repented of them; it was appropriate for them to show their sincerity by placing ashes on their foreheads. The custom has survived in the church.
The traditions of Ash Wednesday came up as a part of the Lenten customs during the late 5th century. Penitence and fasting are two of the key distinctives of Lent. And thus also of the Ash Wednesday, which marks the onset of a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection.