Faith Lutheran, a congregation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, is located in the heart of Missouri's wine country and welcomes all for fellowship and spiritual renewal. Come experience the bridge to life everlasting in the presence of Christ through Word and the Sacramental Life.
For nearly a thousand years, these words have been spoken to young and old alike as the sign of the cross is traced on their foreheads with ashes—the Imposition of Ashes, as it has come to be known. “What does this mean?”
Ashes in the Bible
The Bible contains a number of references to ashes and dust (cf. Joshua 7:6; 1 Samuel. 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2, 15:32; Job 2:12, 16:15; Jeremiah 25:34; Lamentation 2:10; Ezekiel 27:30; Jonah 3:6). In fact, the Lord's curse on Adam, “dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19) is echoed in the Imposition of Ashes formula.
In the New Testament, Jesus declares: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11:21). Thus, in the Bible, ashes carry a two-fold meaning: as a sign of human mortality (Gen. 3:19) and as a sign of public repentance (Matt. 11:21). Ashes Today?
A reminder of your baptism. Lutherans use the Imposition of Ashes with the two-fold biblical understanding of ashes: as a sign of our mortality and as a sign of our repentance. The pastor traces the cross on the forehead with the traditional formula, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It's a paraphrases of the words of God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:19).