Ash Wednesday. As ashes are placed on our foreheads in the form of the cross, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It seems so cold. So dreary. So depressing. Black soot rubbed into our skin. A reminder that we are going to die. Not exactly uplifting.
Ash Wednesday is more than just a morbid reminder of our own mortality.
But if you look closer, the Ash Wednesday service is more than just a morbid reminder of our own mortality.
First, the cross is always the sign of Christ’s victory over death. Even – perhaps especially – when it is rubbed into our foreheads. So yes, we will die, but since Christ has conquered death, we need not fear.
Second, being reminded of our mortality also keeps things in perspective, and helps us to live more faithfully. “In all you do,” we are told in Sirach 7:36, “remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin.”
Finally, the words we hear spoken as the ashes are placed on our foreheads – “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – are, among other things, a not so gentle reminder that we are physical beings.
In other words, they are a reminder that, yes, we are dust – but not just any dust. We are dust that has had life breathed into us by the breath of God. Which means we experience life physically – through our senses, which are gifts of God.
This year during our Lenten journey, we are taking our cue from that fact – that we are physical beings who experience the world and God through our senses – to focus our attention on one sense each Wednesday during our Lenten evening worship.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good,” Psalm 34 reminds us. This Lent, we’ll have a chance not only to taste and see, but also to touch and smell and hear how good God is. Join us on the journey, won’t you?
Question: The traditional spiritual disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charitable giving). What Lenten disciplines do you practice? And, more specific to this year’s theme: Is there one sense more than any other that allows you to most fully experience God?