‘Remember O’ man you are dust and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3.19)
This Biblical quotation adequately captures the essence of Ash Wednesday, also known as dies cinerum, the Day of Ashes. Ash Wednesday falls on the first day of Lent, on a Wednesday, after Quinquagesima Sunday. The season of Lent is a forty day period of abstinence and fasting which culminates in the feast of Easter.
The Ritual of Ash Wednesday
On this Ash Wednesday, a Mass or services of worship are held, wherein the faithful approach the altar to receive the application of the ashes. The officiating priest applies the ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead or on the tonsure of the clergy, while reciting the litany ‘for dust you are and dust you shall return’. The applying of the ashes reminds the believers of their inherent mortality and transgressions and that repentance is essential to become one with God.