Why do you have dirt on your forehead?


Didn’t realize Ash Wednesday was this close, and suddenly this college freshman isn’t at a Catholic school anymore…

The school I go to is mostly protestant, and I can’t imagine that nobody’s going to ask why my forehead is dirty. My protestant friends usually ask this sort of thing in an honestly curious way, no hostility.

So I need a 10-second summary of Ash Wednesday. I’ve got an idea - if you could check it for (a) theological correctness and (b) getting all the important points and © not throwing in anything unimportant - that’d be great.

Why do you have dirt on your forehead? Today’s Ash Wednesday, it’s the beginning of Lent, which is our season of penance. When the priest puts the ashes on, they’re supposed to be in the form of a cross, but usually they come out looking like a smudge. He says “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” which is right out of Genesis 3:19, after the fall when God is throwing Adam and Eve out of the garden. It’s a reminder that (a) we’re sinners, (b) we ought to do better and © that Jesus came to save us and he’s pretty much awesome for that. I think it’s also reminiscent of the sack cloth and ashes in the OT.




Your answer is great!

My five-second answer is usually: “We get them every year on Ash Wednesday. It reminds us that we come from dust and will return to dust.”


Sometimes you hear a different version:

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”


Found an interesting short description of the meaning of ashes on Ash Wednesday online - here’s an excerpt…

Ecclesiasticus 7:40 “In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
In the 17th. c., a style of painting known as “vanitas painting” became popular (see above). This style included elements that represented temporal bounty - flowers, fruits, etc., and symbols of riches, such as gold and jewels. These gorgeous gifts from God were then juxtaposed with symbols that showed the reality of death, usually a skull, or an hourglasses that symbolized the passage of time. [/LEFT]

[LEFT]The point of this style is the moral of which Ecclesiasticus 1 reminds us, “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh…” In other words, the things of this world are transient, and Christians must always keep one eye on the world to come.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]Recalling this Truth is one of the principles behind the use of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season of penance: to remind us that we are mortal, subject to the rot and decay our Western culture now desperately tries to euphemize away, and that we are radically dependent on – solely dependent on – Jesus Christ to overcome this fate.[/LEFT]

[LEFT]More here…[/LEFT]


Just FYI, I don’t know about other denominations, but Methodists do Ash Wednesday as well. They just don’t wear the ashes all day as the service is usually done Wednesday night. The ashes are worn through the service and washed off at home. So, for some, you may just need to explain why you still have your ashes on your forehead. :thumbsup:


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