Marked with ashes, renewed in spirit
The liturgical cycle of the Church is designed to provide instruction in the faith, to teach us how our life is one with Christ. I am grateful that its rhythm provides us with an opportunity to often start over and renew our commitment to the Christian life. Ash Wednesday is one of those days when we are called to say yes once again to “be faithful to the gospel.” It is a day in which we begin a 40 day inward journey of conversion. Christ calls us body, mind, and spirit into a deeper union. By the mark of ashes on our forehead we publicly proclaim our sinfulness and our willingness to turn from sin and be renewed in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
The celebration of Lent is the oldest of our liturgical seasons dating back to 330 C.E., much earlier then the sixth century adoption of Christmas. The celebration of the paschal meal (Eucharist) has been central to our faith since the early church. Every time the Church gathers for Eucharist it is a recognition that we are a sinful people and we gather at this table to remember the sacrifice made on the cross and the promise of our redemption. Lent is not just a time of year to give up things (to make small sacrifices), but it is also a time to get things (to be renewed in the faith). It is a time to look inward, to touch our own woundedness and to search for the “willing spirit” that will sustain us in our journey toward resurrection. As you walk around with ashes on your forehead today, may they not only remind you of your own sinfulness, but pray that they might be a symbol of a renewed spirit in Christ.
May this Lenten journey be for you one of renewal and re-commitment to the work of the gospel.