Ashes blessed for use on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penitence and a reminder of mortality. The OT frequently mentions the use of ashes as an expression of humiliation and sorrow. Ashes for use on Ash Wednesday are made from burned palms from previous Palm Sunday services. Ashes are imposed on the penitent's forehead with the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (BCP, p. 265). The imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is optional.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.