Five weeks away, Ash Wednesday marks the official start of the 40-day Lenten season and is hallmarked by the placing of ashes on the foreheads of parishioners while saying the ancient words from Scripture, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Traditionally made by the burning of the palm leaves from the previous Palm Sunday, the ashes symbolize our mortality as well as our sorrow over our sins. The practice harkens back to Old Testament days when God’s people wore sackcloth and ashes to visually show to God and those around them the depth of their repentance for their wayward behavior. The prophet Jeremiah called for repentance by saying: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26). Today wearing ashes on our heads in the shape of a cross becomes a reminder to us and a witness to others who see us wearing these ashen crosses that we firmly believe that though we will one day die, we know we will one day be made alive again forevermore, forgiven and free through the precious cross of Christ.