"In the Old Testament, sprinkling oneself with ashes or sitting in them or, even, eating them was symbolic of an acute awareness of one's own mortality, the transitoriness of life,of mourning, and of repentance. Such, too, is their liturgical significance, as is evident from the alternative formulas employed as the ashes are imposed:
"Repent and believe in the Good News. Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you will return.
"But we bow our heads to receive these cold grey ashes at the beginning of Lent only with a view to warming ourselves at the bright Easter fire at its end."