Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday!

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, man, that you are dust And unto dust you shall return. Genesis 3.19

You may see a few Christians with real dirt on their foreheads today. Fat Tuesday was their "last hurrah" before Lent began now, Ash Wednesday. Yet regardless your own level of participation in such carnality, is it not far time you repent as well?

What is Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins in the Catholic faith leading up to Good Friday and ultimately Easter, Resurrection Sunday. It is forty days of penance commencing with the reception of the biblical symbol of mourning and penance, ashes. The words from the book of Genesis (3:19) help us to think of the shortness of life, of our last end, and of that moment when each shall come before God to be judged. "Remember," wrote Saint Teresa of Avila, "that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; that there is only one glory, which is eternal."

Of course Ash Wednesday is celebrated by more than Catholics. Interestingly even Catholic churches have changed the recitation while marking foreheads from the Genesis verse: “For dust you are and to dust you will return” to “Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel” or some variant thereof. After all as per the Bible, a mark on a person’s forehead indicates his/her ownership. So the mark of cross on the forehead is a symbol of the person’s belonging to Jesus Christ, who died on a cross.

As for me? I don’t celebrate Ash Wednesday formally.. I seem always to ere on the side of essential truth over ritual truth. I’m reading through St. Augustine Confession (a book all should read). He offers some words to Jesus that I feel best depicts my own Ash Wednesday observance:

Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me but I was outside myself, and there I sought you! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things you have made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The things you have made kept me from you - the things which would have no being unless they existed in you! You have called, you have cried, and you have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly, and you have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me, and now I burn for your peace. – Augustine Of Hippo (Aurelius August) (354–430), North African philosopher, theologian. Confessions, bk. 10, ch. 27.

repent & enjoy, ron

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