Imposition of Ashes for Families

Many of us think of our families as tiny monasteries used by the Spirit to deepen our relationships and form us into the likeness of Jesus. As such, setting our life to the rhythm of the Seasons of the Church helps us to mark our life by the life of Jesus. This rhythm has seasons of celebration, seasons of monotony and even seasons of lament. Lent is a season of lament. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of our season of lament.

We open the door for lament when we begin with the knowledge that God created all things good and for good. As we hold the knowledge of the good God intended with the knowledge of how that goodness has darkened, we lament. We lament darkness on all levels of community: worldwide, nation wide, local community, family, and personal. We take a step deeper into lament when we reflect on when we have forgotten that we are God’s beloved, when we have forgotten God’s mandate for good. We reflect on the ways we have not lived into our true identity as the beloved of God, purveyors of good. We also reflect on the ways we have forgotten that other people are God’s beloved. We reflect on when we didn’t give the honor due to a beloved of God.

Keep in mind, lament often leads to more lament. When we make space for grief, our other losses may rise to the surface. This is an opportunity to offer those losses to God, to grieve them with God and then seek the healing.

What would it look like in your family to make space for an ongoing conversation about loss, to give voice to lament, to grief?

What would it look like in your family to ask the Spirit to heal darkness at every level of community?  


Ash Wednesday in many churches is marked by the imposition of the ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross. The person giving the ashes rubs their thumb in the ashes and then makes a cross on the forehead of the person receiving the ashes. 

You may choose to attend an Ash Wednesday service in your local church and receive the ashes there or maybe you’d like engage this sacred tradition at home.

Ashes are created from the palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday. The fronds are burned and then mixed with olive oil to make a paste. See the following Youtube video for creating your own ashes.  If you do not have palm fronds from last year, you can purchase them from a florist and put them in the oven on very low heat to dry them out. Then burn them and mix 2 part ash to 1 part olive oil. The ashes symbolize our grief and sorrow. The olive oil symbolizes the Spirit’s healing of wounds.

Talk about the significance of the ash and oil. Then on Ash Wednesday gather together and light the Christ Candle. Read Genesis 1: 26-27, talk about how God created each person in his image to reflect God’s likeness. Discuss what God’s likeness looks like. (Hint: It looks like Jesus.) When have you forgotten that you are God’s beloved? When have you forgotten that someone else is God’s beloved? 

When imposing the ashes it is often said, “Remember that you are made from dust and to dust you will return.” Feel free to say this while imposing the ashes.

As children are just building upon their relationship with God, the following may also be said to remind them, to remind all of us, of our true identity.

“God has said, ‘You are my beloved. Chosen and marked by my love.’”