The Lenten ashes are a sign of solidarity with penitents and catechumens, those who are receiving instruction in the faith before baptism. In the early church, catechumens—along with the public penitents– were dismissed from the liturgy before the Eucharist. Our Lenten isolation is their isolation, filled with longing, thirst, hope and faith. As the catechumens strive to be worthy of Baptism’s life-giving waters, and the penitents fast and make restitution, so we strive to repent our sins, change our behavior and become ready for the new life of the Resurrection.