When one thinks deeply about it, it is indeed an amazing sight to behold. Babes in arms, infants, children, teenagers, adults and the elderly come before the altar and ash is placed on their foreheads. As the cruciform ash is put on the foreheads the words, “Remember, from ash you are and to ash you shall return”, are said. From babes to the elderly are reminded of their mortality. Babies do not know the word, for teens if appears light years away and for the elderly it becomes an unwelcome companion constantly intruding its imminence on their minds. Ash Wednesday liturgy brings us face to face with our mortality; with just a little ash.
Mortality can be a dreadful thing, and it is for many. The good news is that Ash Wednesday, while symbolically reminding us in the ash of our mortality, the cross, in which shape the ash is imposed, reminds us of God’s gift of eternal life through our faith in Jesus Christ. Ash Wednesday sets us on a journey through LENT. But the story does not end on Good Friday and the cross. The story culminates triumphantly at the empty tomb on Easter morning and the Resurrection. Death is swallowed up in victory. Mortality gives way to immortality through Christ’s death and resurrection and our faith in him.
We live in an age when youthfulness is revered, aging feared and death denied. Mortality is human’s biggest fear and enemy. For those who live in the shadow of the cross and in the light of Christ and share Christ’s life, the ash points not only to their mortality but beyond, to God’s gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
“Remember, from ash you are and to ash you shall return.”
Remember also beyond the ash is God’s free gift of abundant and eternal life through Christ Jesus.