Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The use of ashes as a sign of penitence and remorse is rooted in Jewish tradition.
This Jewish penitential practice carried over into Christianity.  In one early Church custom dating back to the the fourth century...those who had committed serious sin would present themselves to their bishop on Ash Wednesday and he sprinkled ashes onto their hair shirts (early hair shirts were made from sackcloth or coarse animal hair so that they irritated the skin and created discomfort).

  The penitent would then spend the rest of Lent wearing the hair shirt as a public display of sinfulness.
The Ash Wednesday custom of placing ashes on the forehead became universal in the 11th century.  In the 12th century...the practice began of burning the palm branches of the previous year to make the ashes.
After the 16th century Reformation...most Protestant churches did away with this custom.  However...in recent decades...Lutheran...Presbyterian...Methodist and Episcopal churches have reinstated the use of ashes as part of their liturgical renewal.

1 comment:

momto8 said...

thank you for this explanation.