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Where do the ashes on Ash Wednesday come from?

Fr Lawrence Lew, OP-CC
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The source connects them to another important day on the liturgical calendar.

On Ash Wednesday, ashes are placed on our foreheads, often with the exhortation, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Where do these ashes come from?

While it is possible to purchase ashes from a Catholic supply company, more commonly ashes are created at the parish church through the burning of palm branches. These palm branches were blessed on Palm Sunday the year before and, in accord with Canon Law, must be disposed of properly, as with all blessed objects.

Read more: What should I do with my blessed palms?

One way to dispose of blessed palms is to burn them. This naturally creates ashes, which, in the U.S., are finely powdered and mixed with holy water or chrism to make a paste. (In some other parts of the world, the dry ashes are sprinkled on the tops of people’s heads, an Old Testament sign of mourning.)

Using these ashes of palms for Ash Wednesday connects the beginning of Lent to the end of Lent, when we remember the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, the season begins with the crucifixion and ends with the crucifixion.

The process reminds us of the death to sin that we must undergo during Lent and how it is through the cross of Christ that we are born anew.

Read more: Why do Catholics cover crucifixes and statues during Lent?

Read more: Here’s what you need to know about Ash Wednesday

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