Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day journey to Lent. This, for Christians, is an important time as we progress to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and, more importantly, the resurrection.
On Ash Wednesday we acknowledge our mortality, usually with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” or something like that. But the winter storm kept my church and many others from performing the annual rite of the imposition of ashes. That is where the priest or minister puts the ashes on your forehead in the sign of the cross. But my church, @sacokc, in its uncommon and creative way, sent packages of ash to parishioners and guided them through the imposition of ashes during the online Sunday service.
How wonderful it was to receive the packet of ash and the letter from our Rector Fr. Joseph Alsay. In his letter, he said in many ways it feels like Lent 2020 never left. And he is so right. The other thing he told us was that these ashes – a combination of soil and wood and palm ash – were blessed at the church with the approval of our bishop.
He encouraged us to either make the sign of the cross or to sprinkle ashes on the crown of our heads, which is what I did.
The Bible references our mortality several places, but I like Genesis and Psalms best. In Genesis, Adam and Eve disobeyed God are are sent out from the Garden of Eden to toil and struggle:
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
In Psalms, David praises God, notably his love and compassion on his people, who are not worthy of that love:
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
The Sunday service was beautiful, and the Imposition of Ashes was paired with a great rendition of “Beautiful Things.” (Go to the 51-minute mark for this part of the service.)
Father Joe ends his letter saying, “may God be near to all of us, fill us with grace and peace as we begin this holy season with prayer and repentance and grow closer to the heart of Christ in the way of love.”