Lent has begun. Today is Ash Wednesday. On this day we are reminded of our mortality. We mark one another with the sign of the cross and say the words;
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Our Community of St Aidan’s will today at 1030 am and 730 pm provide opportunity to assemble for worship. To assemble together and to name together that we are embarking on a journey. Forty -six days from now we will celebrate Easter. We declare that the next 40 days (the Sundays are days of Feasting) will provide us time for fasting, penitence, alms-giving, prayer and study of scripture. This is a very reflective time in the church’s year.
I hope you have opportunity to receive the sign of the cross on your forehead today. To me one of the powerful parts of the symbol is a hearkening back to our baptism. When we are baptised we also have a priest sign us with the sign of the cross. Instead of ashes, the priest uses oil of chrism, and imposes the sign of the cross on the forehead saying; “I sign you with the sign of the cross and mark you as Christ’s own for ever.” While these words are decidedly different than “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” they are intimately connected. You see the notion that we are God’s own… forever.. is all the more powerful when we understand that God is with us from our dusty beginnings till our dusty end. We are mortal. God is God. And yet the possibility is there that in our humanity, in our mortality, we might reflect a glimpse of what the Divine may look like. In our baptism we make some commitments. We lay claim to our frailty by declaring that we do at times fall into sin. We lay claim to the wish for a world where reconciliation is real. We reach toward a world where peace, unity and justice are transfigured from words spoken in dusty church sanctuaries to genuine gestures of love and sacrifice. At the time of our baptism we long for the time when dignity for all people is not something we wish for but something we do… as in do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal, that time is a commodity and it is not unlimited. Each year when I hear those words, “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I hearken back to my baptism. I am left to be honest in my appraisal in how I am doing with the possibilities laid before me. Lent allows me time to enter into a time of self reflection and dialogue with others and with God in the honest desire to come closer as a human being, as a piece of dust, to being animated toward love, justice, hope, healing, and forgiveness.
I am dust…. marked as Christ’s own forever. I am hopeful that Lent will allow me to be honest with myself, with others, and with the Divine.
[As as aside, if you cannot be at church because of work etc, I will be out in the neighbourhood between 9-10 am and 2-4 pm with Ashes to Go].