By: Dylan Cumberland
This past Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, I had the honor of helping to impose ashes during my churches worship service. I had done so last year and it was an interesting experience, I found it similar to when the pastor pours dirt over a casket uttering those eternal words, “ashes to ashes and dust to dust”.
People utter different phrases when imposing ashes, the Common Book of Prayer says to say, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”, a pastor friend of mine says, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, while others say, “Believe and be saved”. I had decided to stick with the Common Book of Prayer version, deciding that if it’s good enough for Anglicans, then it’s good enough for me. When the time came to go up front and start the imposition of ashes, I came to a stop. Standing in the front of the line, looking up at me, stood a 9 year old girl with a smile on her face. My mind was spinning, how was I going to tell this little girl, this girl who has yet to start fully living, that she is dust and she will soon become dust? I ultimately did impose the ashes and recite the phrase from the Common Book of Prayer, but I confess, that moment stuck with me long after the service was over.
Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it’s a time of preparation, a time where we live in perpetual remembrance of our sinful world. Lent begins, rightfully so, with a time of penitence, the ashes serving as a reminder of our own mortality and as a symbol of seeking forgiveness. Lent is not necessarily a time of celebration and I believe it’s that way by design, it a time of reflection and soul-seeking.
In the midst of this penitence, however, we can find great joy. Lent exists so that we can better center our soul on God and in that lies great joy and reason for celebration. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our own mortality, but we also remember that in Christ we never die. If that’s not a message worth celebrating, then I don’t know what is.
So as I thought about how I had told that small child, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” I remembered that in a little over 40 days, she’d go to church and hear that old hymn being sung, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia”
So, I thought about writing this article, I knew I wanted to post a link to Anthony Evans son, “Mercy Tree”, to me it’s a great song of celebration about our risen God.
Grace and Peace,