Today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the Lent Season which is forty days between now and Easter Sunday, except that each Sunday in the season of lent in not counted. Ashes is a reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, and repent, and believe in the gospel. Ashes were an ancient symbol of our humanity. In Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. On the first day of lent, we come before God recognizing our humanity and repenting of our sins. Lent leads to Easter the day we celebrate that though our bodies are flawed, a day of resurrection will come when we lived in the presence of God forever. On Ash Wednesday we go to church remembering who we are, with the hope of who we can become.
Why Ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Morality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/Repentance because long ago when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.
Where do the ashes come from? On what we now call Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people waved and cheered him on. Less then a week later, Jesus would be killed. The palms that were waved in joy became ashes of sorrow. We get the ashes for Ash Wednesday by saving the psalms from Palm Sunday, burning them, and mixing them with a little oil. It’s symbolic.
What Do Christians do with ashes? At a service which is held on Ash Wednesday people are invited to come forward in the service and a pastor or priest make a small cross of their forehead by smudging the ashes. While the ashes remind us of mortality and sin, the cross reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection (life after death) and forgiveness. It’s a powerful, non-verbal way that we can experience God’s forgiveness and renewal as we return to Jesus.
Grace and Peace to You My Friends