Ash Wednesday

This section in Holy Faith comprises material related to Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Ash Wednesday is so called because services include the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the congregation, accompanied by the words:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ”. (1)

This ceremony seems to have started in Gaul in the sixth century.  It was at first confined to public penitents doing penance for grave sin.  The clergy tried to encourage and comfort these penitents by undergoing the same public humiliation.  The custom spread to England in the ninth or tenth century. (2)  Today, being marked with the sign of the Cross in ash is a sign of our penitence.  The ash is made by burning the previous year’s palm crosses.

The liturgical colour is purple, symbolising penitence.


1. Copyright © The Archbishops’ Council (2006) Lent.  Available from: (Accessed 22 January 2016) (Internet).

2. Dix, G. (1945) The shape of the liturgy, Westminster: Dacre Press.

Short talks

Short talks entitled A generous Lent, Self-denial, The temptations of Christ and Lenten loving are available in this section of the Holy Faith website.