I hope you all enjoyed the “little dusting” of snow this week. Something else happened this week. In many church traditions, the celebration of Lent began on February 22nd with Ash Wednesday.
Our Easter-related traditions are pretty much all I’ve ever known, with the exception of one Palm Sunday Mass when I was nine. Since Ash Wednesday has not been a part of my personal spiritual traditions, it took me a bit by surprise when I saw a family come into the breakfast place where I was with ash on their foreheads. They had just participated in Ash Wednesday Mass.
A few years ago I began looking more deeply into the traditions of the liturgical (rites prescribed for public worship) church practices. Now I have a deeper appreciation for Ash Wednesday and Lent. Let me caution all of us not to be too hasty to judge these rituals.
What is Ash Wednesday? It marks the beginning of the 40-day Season of Lent. Lent is a time period for repentance in preparation for Easter. Ash Wednesday is a reminder of repentance. It’s intended to place the focus on the grace that accompanies repentance. Repentance is more than the cleansing of unrighteousness, it’s also a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Repentance reminds us that God, in the person of Jesus, took the journey to be close to us.
Let me ask a question… If we truly and genuinely believe that God really is close to us, how would we adjust our lives? I’m sure many of us would experience repentance - the aligning of our lives to His.
What about the ashes part? The ashes represent our weakness, our humanity, and how fragile life is. They remind us that we are human, not God. They remind us of our limitations, which can free us from living with guilt and shame.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder to recognize our humanity, our weakness, and our hope in God’s love. Let’s use this time to turn our hearts toward Jesus, and consider His ways, His values, and His attitudes in the world. When we do this, God makes “beauty from ashes.”
Grace & Peace,