Updated: Mar 17, 2019
From Phyllis Tickle, Final Sanity: Stories of Lent, Easter, and the Great Fifty Days:
Ash Wednesday is probably the one day in the Christian year that has ever bothered our children. The thing is fairly simple. The palms they loved carrying in procession last year on Palm Sunday have been burned to make ashes, and those ashes have been blessed, before Ash Wednesday begins. Whether we gather at the 7:30 service in the morning or at the midday service or, as occasionally happens, we have to attend the evening service in order to all be together, the end result is always the same.
We move through the service as if this were just any other day of the year until, following the communion, the congregation returns to the altar rail for the imposition of the ashes. Putting his thumb in the small dish he carries, the priest moves in front of us, making the sign of the cross on each forehead.
It is the only time of year that we are ever marked, that on our bodies we carry the sign of the faith. Both ancient and primitive, the marks will stay with us throughout the day. It is the manner of their acceptance of the sign, then, that tells Sam and me where a child is in understanding what it means to say, “I am Christian.”