In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Do you know how it came to pass that we in the US impose ashes on the forehead while in other countries it is on the top of the head? Our practice seems to ignore Jesus’ advice in the gospel that day.


A: I don’t know why. It’s probably a cultural preference. If I sprinkled ashes on top of the heads of churchgoers, I suspect that many of them would be disappointed. They want to wear a sign of repentance visible for others to see. Ashes on the forehead does seem to ignore Jesus’ advice to keep your acts of repentance private, but ashes on the forehead helps us visibly say “I’m sorry” even to strangers, while we tell others we belong to Christ.