For practicing Catholics, Ash Wednesday is the annual commemmoration of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent.

Imposing ashes on one’s forehead is a sign of penitence that the early Christians adopted from Jewish practice. It is mentioned several times in the Bible (Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21).

The ashes symbolize various aspects of human existence. The following is a list, courtesy of ELCA:

- They remind Christians of God’s condemnation of sin. He said to Adam, "Dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19)

- They suggest cleansing and renewal and were used in the absence of soap centuries ago.

- Ashes are supposed to be a reminder of the brevity of human life: "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." 

- They are also a symbols of the need to repent, confess sins and return to God.

Where can practicing Christians go to receive ashes for the beginning of Lent?

Some places to get ashes and attend services in NYC:

Our Lady of Victory Church: 460 Madison Ave (212) 753-2261

St. Patrick's Cathedral: 201 W 13th St (212) 243-5470

Church of the Village United Methodist Church: 1157 Lexington Ave (212) 535-5530

Unitarian Church of All Souls: 209 Broadway (212) 233-4164

St. Paul's Chapel: 120 W 46th St (212) 581-6922

New York City Church: 1657 Broadway (212) 541-6300

In Orchard Park, N.Y., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is offering “Ashes to Go” on Ash Wednesday.

People can convene in the church’s parking lot from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. where they can get ashes before school and work if they don’t have time to sit through Mass.

Other places to get “Ashes to Go” in Western New York, as posted on WIVP:

-Buffalo - UB South Campus Transit Station from 6:30 to 8 a.m. Sponsored by Episcopal Church of the Advent, Kenmore, NY.

-Dunkirk – Outside the doors of St. John’s Episcopal Church at 16 West Fourth Street from 5:15 to 6:30 pm.

-Harris Hill – Drive through at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 4275 S. Harris Hill Road from 5 to 6:30 pm.

-Lockport – Outside the Arnold House at 110 Genesee Street at 3 pm sponsored by Grace Episcopal Church.

-Westfield – On Main Street in the village and on the campus of SUNY Fredonia during the morning hours. Sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Westfield.