In the sixteenth century the English Reformers abolished the imposition of ashes on the heads of parishioners on Ash Wednesday due to the superstitious beliefs that had become associated with the practice. The practice was too closely tied the Medieval doctrines of attrition, auricular confession, contrition, priestlyabsolution, and penance.
The imposition of ashes was not reintroduced into the Church of England and her daughter churches until the nineteenth century and then by the Ritualists. It was one of the errors in doctrine, practice, and ritual that the Romeward Movement revived to make the Anglican Church more like the Roman Catholic Church in the hopes that they would help to affect a reunion between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.
The 1979 Book of Common Prayer popularized the practice in the Episcopal Church in the closing decades of the twentieth century.
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