Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the day in the church calendar that marks the beginning of the Lenten season. In church traditions which follow the liturgical calendar, this is a significant time of considering our mortality as human beings. Though sometimes we can barrel on through life acting as though we are somewhat invincible, we are not. The stark reality is that death comes to us all. Sometimes, it seems that it comes far too soon.
On Ash Wednesday, the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned and turned into ash, which is then imposed in the shape of a cross on people’s foreheads, with the words proclaimed “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This practice, though possibly appearing a bit strange and grim, is a beautiful reminder of who we are and who Christ is.
We look back to God’s creative process as he created us from the dust, breathing life into our very lungs and sustaining us each day. We can sometimes become self-reliant, inadvertently placing ourselves on a pedestal in our lives. We forget that we are dependent on the one who gives life. Being marked with ashes is a tangible reminder of our mortality, that we will one day return to the ground. However, though this speaks of our own death and fragility, the shape of the cross is a reminder of who Christ is, and our hope of redemption in him. It is only through Christ that we have eternal life, redemption from the brokenness of this world. New hope for tomorrow.
The fact that Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten period of fasting is significant. As we seek to put new practices into place, we are reminded that we though we are mortal, we are granted the gift of new life. New life that ought to move us to live and share this new life with others, in the way we speak, move, and act. As you go out this day, may this prayer grant you the confidence to live in the knowledge that while we dwell in the temporary, we put our trust in the eternal.
We respectfully submit, our God,
this day after Ash Wednesday,
within our grieving
deaths and diagnoses,
that life offers us enough reminders of death
to need a liturgical one.
So remind us,
that we are ritually marked by death
in order to live—
and to live more abundantly.
that you breathed on the dust that became us,
and that you will breathe on the dust we become,
and that your breath on dust
always means life
and light and love.
of Your presence with us,
day by day—
fulfilling us with life ever new.
(Prayer by John Ballenger, Posted on A Preacher Musing. http://preachermusings.wordpress.com/author/preachermusings/)
– Kyla Palmer –