Isaiah 58:1–12, Psalm 51:1–17, Matthew 6:19–21
Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, the reflective Christian journey to the cross. One of the symbolic pieces are the ashes themselves. The “official” tradition is that the ashes are from last year’s Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the day that observes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with the pomp and circumstance of a ruler. This jubilation is crushed that same week with his crucifixion. The ashes, therefore, are a somber reminder of earthly pride, joy, and power crushed. Often they are a reminder of our own prides and joys and their short-term nature.
In the “spirit” of ashes, the following is a modified form of the Book of Common Prayer’s Burial liturgy:
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God oursleves—our very beings; and we commit our bodies and lives to serve your kingdom on earth; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless us and keep us, the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us, the Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace.
It seems strange and morbid to share a passage from a burial rite, yet an integral part of Ash Wednesday is our mortality. Another part, the part which we often focus on during Lent, is our frailty. By frailty, we mean sin and the weaknesses inherent to the human condition. What we may “give up” during Lent is a reflection upon what we believe is one of our biggest “frailties” at the moment, meaning it can change.
The importance of understanding our finiteness, our mortality, is summed up in Jesus’ words regarding the storage of treasures. The earthly stuff is stolen or rots. It doesn’t last. Only treasures that we store in Heaven last forever. Those treasures are people.
1) We are all “given” treasures that we are responsible for that are not our children, grandchildren, or other family members. Who are those treasures in your life?
2) Why is important to remember the quickness of life when as we approach the cross in our spiritual journey?
3) What do you value: time, money, things, people? All of these have value. Which has priority?
FD) On Ash Wednesday a cross of ashes is put on our forehead. Why ashes? Why a cross?