Ok, so today at Holy Family Lutheran School during chapel I was part of a their Ash Wednesday ceremony. It was very interesting. They had previously burned the palm branches from the last Palm Sunday to use the ashes for the service. The pastor explained how the ashes were representative of how we came from dust and to dust we will return. In short, the mortality of man. Ash Wednesday commemorates the start of Lent. The kids were all encouraged to admit their faults and to give something up for the forty days prior to Easter Sunday(Sundays not included in the count). The purpose of this was to have the children sacrifice something for the name of Christ. After a prayer, the pastor came around with a small canister and made the symbol of a cross on each forehead with ashes while saying, "from dust you have come, to dust you shall return". They were encouraged to leave the symbol on their heads as a reminder throughout the day. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the whole thing at first. I thought it sounded too catholic to me. But as the symbols were explained, I found that I really had no problem with using this as a symbol of my own mortality. So I joined in the ceremony.
What do you think you would have done? Any more thoughts on Ash Wednesday or Lent?
Here is one website I was looking at about the history behind this tradition.