Many people would say, that’s the day people go to church and come out with black smudges on their forehead or hand. But they only know what they see; they do not know the why and the reason. Unfortunately, many Christians do it because they are supposed to do it without knowing its meaning and purpose. Nevertheless, for all who come, the simple act of coming and receiving the imposition of ashes is an act of faith. It is not a symbol of humiliation or punishment but a revelation. I believe when one intentionally carves out a portion of their day, and engages in this act of worship, they are expressing a desire to be in relationship with God with the hope God’s desire is to be in relationship with them.
Ash Wednesday begins the forty days of Lent which symbolize the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness; overcoming and enduring temptations all humanity struggles with. Traditionally, Christians during the Lenten season have given up meat on Friday’s for fish. Individuals often choose to give up something they love or desire. However, these rituals are empty unless the fast is motivated by a longing for a deeper relationship with God.
The purpose of receiving the sign of ashes prompts us to consider our mortality; from dust we came from dust we shall return. We pause to acknowledge our imperfections and limitations, our failures and trespasses, our fear and shame even lack of faith. When we identify these short comings, it gives us a vantage point like no other: we place ourselves in a position to witness and personally experience the love, goodness and grace of God. What we see is GRACE coming alive as each one no longer shrinks back from God because of inadequacies but rather moves towards God despite them.
The following are lyrics to songs written by people who discovered this great truth.
- “He gives me beauty for ashes, the oil of Joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness….
- “Something beautiful, something good, All my confusion, God understood, all I have to offer Him is brokenness and strife but he made something beautify of my life.”
- “Shackled by a heavy burden, neath a load of guilt and shame, then the hand of Jesus touched me and now I am no longer the same. “ He touched me, Oh He touched me, And Oh what joy that floods my soul…Something Happened and now I know He touched me and made me whole.
Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of a journey towards Easter, 40 day’s and 6 Sunday’s. To come and receive the mark, you are acknowledging your humanity and are conscious of God’s desire to be in relationship with you. So go to a church near you to receive yours. I would also invite you to join us as we journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John leading up to Easter.
I Leave you with this thought and prayer:
“You are not loved because you are good but because God is good and that Goodness is beautiful, it is the oil of joy, it is a garment of praise.”
May your Lenten prayer be as simple as the song from Godspell:
Day by Day, Day by Day, O dear Lord three things I pray,
To see they more clearly, follow they more nearly, Love the more dearly
Day by Day.