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Saturday, February 18, 2012

From Dust Thou Art: Ash Wednesday & Linkup

Like opening the front door to that first cold blast of winter air of the season, Ash Wednesday is a brisk and abrupt transition to Lent.  It reminds me of that slap on the face from the Bishop at confirmation:  you're an adult now; it's Lent now...buck up, things just got serious.

There's nothing festive or jovial about the imposition of a cross of ashes on the forehead.  It speaks repentance, somber times, serious business.

From dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return...

Serious business.

It's true you know.  Of course you do.  We all know it.
This life is temporary.  The i pods, the work stresses, the guy who made that hand gesture to you on the freeway the other day...these things are not what matters.  They are temporary elements of a temporary journey.

Our eternal welfare and that of our loved ones...that is what matters.

Ash Wednesday, Julian Falat 1881, PD-Art

The distribution of ashes reminds us of our mortality and calls us to repentance.

The imposition of ashes is an ancient rite, born of the penitential practice of dusting oneself with ashes, along with sackcloth and fasting, to show sorrow for ones faults and failings.  Applied in the sign of a cross, it points us toward the source of our redemption. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday. All things liturgical point to our Lord.

It seems archaic, antediluvian, ...maybe even a little.... creepy?  But, facing the reality of our mortality, and entering into a period of focus upon eternal things, is not exactly a modern practice.  It seems to me that such a serious seasonal transition requires a ritual wake up call.

If you've never received ashes on the first day of Lent, consider doing it.  Most liturgical Protestant churches (Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and others) will have an Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of ashes.  All Catholic and Anglican churches will have one, and because the imposition of ashes is a sacramental, rather than a sacrament, anyone who desires to receive it, may.  You won't have to do much.  Just get in line with everyone else, and present your forehead when it is your turn.  You won't be made uncomfortable by it; I promise.  You might even be glad that you braved leaving your comfort zone.  Centuries of Christians have found it a pretty beneficial way to enter into Lent.

The practice of repentance and its association with ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, Job 2:8, Daniel 9:3, and Matthew 11:21.

Ash Wednesday is February 22 this year.

Whatever your Lenten practices, I pray your Lenten journey is blessed.

Pax Christi,

For more on Lent, check here.

Visit Liturgical Time on Facebook.


It's time for our Sunday Ponderings Link-up.  Feel free to link up your family friendly posts on homemaking, marriage & family life, Christian reflections, Christian observances, or anything else that you feel might be a blessing to readers.

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  1. I'll have to remember to stop by on Sundays and join in!

    I am learning so much by reading your posts. Several of my Catholic friends taught me much about Lent last year, but having not grown up in a church that practices it, I am learning new things all the time.



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