Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day in the season of Lent.
One of the oldest traditions in the Church calendar, today reminds us to:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” — Genesis 3:19
The Lenten Season is the 40 days prior to Easter, not including Sundays. It ends on Maundy Thursday, April 2.
Within the Church, ashes are viewed as a symbol of penance, and the ashes of Ash Wednesday helps us be more humble and sacrificial in spirit. Ashes are applied in the shape of a cross on our foreheads to symbolize humility and remind us of death.
Generally, with one stroke of the ashes, the first words are spoken,
“Remember that you are dust,”
Then with the second line of ashes, forming a cross,
“and to dust you will return.”
Ash Wednesday can be a real downer for some Christians and can be confusing to non-Christians.
Lent is a time of introspection and sacrifice. Historically, people have given up meat during Lent, but that eventually gave way to sacrificing meat just on Fridays. Either way, expect to see a lot more fish sandwich commercials on TV.
In my first visit to the church where I now worship, the minister recited these words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” And then he added, “Remember that you are loved.”
By whom, I thought? Loved by God? By Jesus? By him?
The penitence of Lent is important and a good time for introspection, but neither Lent nor anything that happens in a church should distract us from the underlying fact that we are loved.
As strong as the steel rail of a subway system and as powerful as the core of the atom, nothing is as important as the Love of our Creator.
Too many churches let too many messages distract them, and non-Christians in turn miss the simple message.
We are loved.
Yes, we will return to dust and all the world will pass away, but we are loved.
Remember, you are loved.