Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
The first day of Lent, when, in the primitive church, notorious sinners were put to open penance thus: They appeared at the church door barefooted, and clothed in sackcloth, where, being examined, their discipline was proportioned according to their offences; after which, being brought into the church, the bishop singing the seven penitential psalms, they prostrated themselves, and with tears begged absolution; the whole congregation having ashes on their heads, to signify, that they were both mortal and deserved to be burnt to ashes for their sins.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Wednesday, Ash'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/w/wednesday-ash.html. 1802.