In the seventh century, Pope Gregory I began the practice of marking the cross with ashes on the forehead of all Roman Catholics who began their Lenten fast on Wednesday, six weeks before the celebration of Holy Week, or Week of the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus.
The use of ashes was inspired by the use of ashes in ancient Israel as a sign of lamentation, and in the 40 days of fasting of our Lord in the desert, after his baptism.
(2Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Matthew 4:1-2; 11:21)
Although this practice has never been used in the Christian East, but only in the West, it passed to the Churches of the Reformation, that is, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican, from the Roman Church in the sixteenth century, and thus the practice has spread to our days.
Today, not all Western Christians practice it, since it is not a biblical mandate, but its practice is carried out by others as a sign of fasting and prayer, in spiritual preparation while they meditate for forty days on the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ, and so they can commemorate it correctly once the day has come.
The important thing is, whether we celebrate Ash Wednesday or not, periodic fasting is always important, not only for Easter, but throughout the year. And we must respect those who decide to follow this pious custom out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ.
But above all things, we must meditate reading the Scripture and praying, and if possible fasting, at least a few days, on the sacrifice and love that it took from God, the incarnation and death on the Cross of our Lord. Jesus, for the salvation of the entire human race.