Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of 40 Days of Lent. There are actually 46 days before Easter, but Sundays are not counted in the 40 days.
Catholics and many other Christian faiths, including Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian, begin the Lenten season with an Ash Wednesday service. Although Ash Wednesday is not instructed or mentioned in the Bible, the sprinkling or marking oneself with ashes goes back to the Old Testament symbolizing repentance and conversion. The practice of Ash Wednesday is said to have originated with Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), and became a regular practice made universal in the Western Church by 1091.
Ashes are burned from the blessed, dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday Mass. The mark of the cross on the forehead with ashes has come to represent repentance, mortality, and self-denial as a preparation for the observance of Lent.
“You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
“Repent and believe in the Gospel.”