Purpose of Ash Wednesday

Can someone please tell me the purpose of Ash Wednesday? Where did the tradition come from, why are ashes put on our foreheads and what purpose does it serve, etc.?

Any information would be great. I’m the only Catholic in my family and I know that they’re going to be asking these questions, so I want to be prepared for them.

Thanks.
Scout :tiphat:

New Advent will provide a good introduction for you. I’m sure that many other people here can provide you with much more information though.

[quote=Scout]Can someone please tell me the purpose of Ash Wednesday? Where did the tradition come from, why are ashes put on our foreheads and what purpose does it serve, etc.?

Any information would be great. I’m the only Catholic in my family and I know that they’re going to be asking these questions, so I want to be prepared for them.

Thanks.
Scout :tiphat:
[/quote]

One good apologetic point is to explain to them how in the Old Testament, the Jews would show their sorrow for their sins with sackcloth and ashes. What they would do is dress in a sack and sit in a pile of ashes and pour the ashes all over their heads. Ash Wednesday is more or less a New Testament fulfillment of this.

[quote=Scout]Can someone please tell me the purpose of Ash Wednesday? Where did the tradition come from, why are ashes put on our foreheads and what purpose does it serve, etc.?

Any information would be great. I’m the only Catholic in my family and I know that they’re going to be asking these questions, so I want to be prepared for them.

Thanks.
Scout :tiphat:
[/quote]

There is a lot that can be said about Ash Wednesday, but i’ll keep it simple. First of all the ashes that are used at our Parish is ashes from the Palms that are used on Palm Sunday. The ashes represent the dust/dirt that we were created from and where we will return to. No matter how proud we are of all our accomplishments in life, when the ashes are applied to our foreheads, it is a humbling experience, because we are nothing but the dust/dirt that we are created from.

As far as preparation, maybe someone else can tell you how would be the best way to prepare. :smiley:

Genesis 3
19
By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return."

The ashes remind us of our mortality. This is important because we are preparing ourselves for the miracle of Christ’s immortality. Also, because the ashes are from last years palms, it reminds us of our part in Christ’s death on the cross (read through the passion that we read aloud on palm Sunday)

Just thought since you are probably going to be explaining yourself to protestants you would want a bible verse.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.