Since the Apostolic period of the Christian church—the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus—believers have engaged in a period of focus on their sin and God’s forgiveness of that sin. This period of reflection is called Lent or Fortieth and is a period of 40 days leading up to Good Friday and Easter.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, and in many church traditions is a time when Christians gather for corporate confession and individual repentance. At the end of the service, priests, pastors, or church leaders place ashes, in the sign of the cross, on the forehead of believers while saying “from dust you have come, to dust you will return.”
This is a reminder that one’s physical body is temporal, while the spirit is eternal. Therefore, a Christian is asked to reflect on his or her relationship with God and possibly set aside a habit or a pleasure for 40 days to help one focus on Jesus, his sacrifice on our behalf, and on his commands to worship God and love and serve others.