Ash Wednesday Reflection

What other day in the year do we get to reach way back to the moment of the creation and imagine being created? When I am given ashes on my head, I am reminded that it was out of the void, the chaos, the random swirl of particles of energy before they were even formed into matter that God began to create the universe. I say began to create, because that is as accurate translation of the first words of Genesis. The creation was not a once-for-all moment that punctuated time is and now eons behind us. The creation continues to form, reform, pluck up, and restore again and again and again, eternally in God’s presence. And so, here we are again, receiving ashes, and offering our selves, our souls and bodies, to be created afresh by God. Viewed in this way, Lent loses its morose quality of self-absorption and becomes again the means by which we open ourselves to share in the creative community of God, the Holy Trinity.  

One child I know got this instinctively right. When her father was anxious about how his little five year-old girl would interpret being told “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” when a priest made the sign of the cross in ashes on her forehead. He told her, “Sweetie, you don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to.” After seeing the others come back to their pews with the sign of the cross on their foreheads, she immediately replied, “But Dad, I want to! It’s just like at my baptism! Remember? The pastor made the cross on my head and told me that I was God’s forever. Well, I don’t remember, but I saw it done a few weeks ago to little James.” Yes, if the water and oil of baptism represent a kind of life in death, so our ashes of today remind us the extent God will go to make us new again.

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