Though I failed miserably at being Episcopal yesterday (I forgot to make pancakes for Shrove Tuesday) I made it to the Ash Wednesday service this evening. I haven’t observed Lent in over a decade, and I wanted to start off Lent right.
Part of the Ash Wednesday service is the Imposition of Ashes. I still have the black ash cross on my forehead. Part of me doesn’t want to wash it off and the other part of me doesn’t want black ash on my pillows. I loved watching everyone file back to their seats from the altar with black ashes on their foreheads. The ashes are a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that our salvation is a gift that comes to us at great cost.
I also found it interesting that the priests say, “Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return,” a phrase often heard at funerals… but then again observing Lent is about dying to yourself and your desires by leaning in to be closer to God and to be more like God. The ashes are a mark of death and the promise of life — which is yet another paradox woven into fabric of faith.
I’m still not sure about washing this cross off my forehead. I may wake up with ashes on my pillow.