I partook in an Ash Wednesday service last year at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Waupun. My friend Peter Bird is the Vicar or Pastor there, and he had invited me. I think it might have been my first Ash Wednesday service…ever.
Ash Wednesday, for those not in the know, is a day of repentance which marks the beginning of Lent. Typically, the officiant makes a cross of dust on the penitent’s forehead, and says on this order: “From dust you were made; to dust you shall return.”
This evening, I read this thoughtful article on the meaning and message of Ash Wednesday…
Living in denial of death is typically a youthful response. We live recklessly, believing that death will come for the old, the weak, or the sick, but not for us. Such recklessness plunges out of airplanes and into strange beds, shunning any measure of caution.
Eventually, most death-deniers are brought into face-to-face encounters with the future they fear: the death of a friend or loved one, a bad diagnosis, an accident or close call. As the cultural myth goes, this brings us “down to earth” and we live in a more solemn acknowledgment of life’s realities…
Ash Wednesday serves to interrupt denial and panic both. It quietly reminds us, in the days before Easter, that death comes for all born under the curse, and it lays groundwork for the hope of Easter Sunday to ring all the louder and more powerful.
In truth, Ash Wednesday is about repentance and remembrance. We remember that Kansas wasn’t totally off the mark when they said, “All we are is dust in the wind”, and we are moved to repent for the sins in our lives which have become too casual, but for which Christ died.
So I don’t know if you made it to an Ash Wednesday service today, but if not, you would no doubt profit from a few minutes in the Lord’s presence remembering the reality of the curse…amidst the joyous backdrop of a risen Savior.