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Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are God’s beloved dust, and to God’s beloved dust you shall return


It is only within the last couple of years that I have taken on observing Ash Wednesday. Growing up I did not realize that anyone outside Catholicism observed the fast or received ashes. That being said, I had no understanding of the deep meaning of the day, or of the ways that this tradition might inform my faith.


Ash Wednesday marks the official start of the liturgical (church calendar) season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and the start of Eastertide (i.e. Holy Week and the next several Sundays before Pentecost). We often observe Lent by doing some kind of daily devotional prayer or choosing something to fast from during those 40 days.


Ash Wednesday is a particularly beautiful day in my opinion, because we get to be reminded that our time on this Earth is short and fragile, yet so amazing that we have it at all. We are here because of our Creator who made all things Good, and we will one day return to our Creator because of our Redeemer. We can have our bodies marked with the ashes of the palms used to celebrate Palm Sunday among our community. Reminding us that indeed, we are all created out of the Earth and to the Earth we will return.


I’ve tried several modes of observing the holy day and starting my Lenten journey. I’ve given up cookies. I’ve received ashes in the early morning hours. I’ve committed to reading and praying from a daily devotional. Each one has its own beauty and insights to offer me. I haven’t found one that I go back to each year, but I have found pieces of each that I carry with me into the next. So while I have not settled on an Ash Wednesday tradition to begin each season of Lent, I have found an appreciation for the day that I did not realize was available to me.


This year in particular I think it’s especially poetic that we observe Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day all in one. Observing the two in conjunction can lead to some funny mixed messages “do I keep my ashes on for my dinner date?” “Should I tell my family that I love them before or after I remind them of their impending mortality?” But it strikes me that we have a wonderful opportunity to share with ourselves and one another how love of self, others, and the Creator are all wrapped up together in this fabulous existence.


As we observe this holy day together, I pray that you find your own way of marking the occasion that sits well with you and allows you to make room for something new to grow.


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