Christians across the area and around the world marked the beginning of Lent by attending Ash Wednesday services to receive a visible reminder of their human mortality in the shape of a cross made out of ashes.
The symbol of a cross drawn on the forehead is meant to invite Christians to reflect on their mortality and repent their sins as they begin the season before Easter, which celebrates the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead.
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Churches such as Holy Trinity Lutheran in Lombard gathered members for morning services to impose ashes, while other churches scheduled services during the day and in the evening. Several churches took the dispensing of ashes outside worship center walls, offering "Ashes to Go" on commuter train platforms.
No matter the setting, as a cross is drawn, priests traditionally leave ash recipients with the blessing "remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."