Ash Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) opens Lent, which lasts 45 days.
On this day, according to ancient custom, the believers put on the forehead the sign of the cross sanctified ashes. In the Jewish tradition of sprinkling ashes on the head symbolizes sorrow and repentance.
C 3-4 centuries the Church has become a place ashes on the heads of public penitents, after confessing their sins. Since the 10th century began to sprinkle the ashes all the faithful to mark their entry into the path of conversion. In the 14th century the imposition of ashes occurred in the Western Church is everywhere.
During the rite of imposition of ashes, the priest repeats: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." These words and actions represent a heartfelt contrition and repentance, which begins the Christian Post.
Palm (or Palm) branch, preserved with the feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), burned and the ashes collected sanctified. Fire, burning willow branch, indicating the fire of love that turns into ashes all sinful.
The Catholic Church distinguishes between "post" and "abstinence from meat." Abstinence from eating meat on Friday is compulsory in all years, except for major holidays. In Ash Wednesday and Good Friday Church instructs believers to observe a strict fast — to this day can not eat meat and meatless foods you can eat your fill only once a day.
When someone can not abide the necessary regulations, the Church allows for different days of repentance. Despite the importance of bodily abstinence, even more important are the works of charity and prayer.