Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. With these stark words the Church invites us to a Holy Lent. In the events which have occurred since Ash Wednesday, last year, many people need no reminders of the realities of our own mortality and of the ones we love.
The season of Lent was originally a penitential season of reconciliation with the Church—the ashes being a visible sign of repentant sinners who were seeking public reunion with the Church. It was also a time when converts to the faith prepared for Baptism.
The invitation to a Holy Lent from the Ash Wednesday service needs no reminder of death and sickness as those have been in our midst for the past year, but think of the ashes as healing medicine for the soul that may be preoccupied with fear. The meaning of the Greek word pharmakon means “purification through purging,” and pharmakeia means the “use of drugs.” As most of us wait for the long-anticipated vaccine against the virus to keep our bodies safe from illness, we have already received our dose of ashes to begin Lent, reminding us that God’s love has made us spiritually well.
This Lenten journey will be different as we have had a year of isolation and introspection. Now can be a holy time of purging of what holds us back from the way of love. The ashes we wore last week are made from the Earth which God created, so they are good reminders that we have a need to always turn to God and die to ourselves. By the time you read this, the ashes imposed on your forehead are gone, for death cannot hold you. You have another invisible cross on your head, which is a vaccine and cure against even death itself—but that is another story.
The Rev. Clayton Waddell
Deacon for Port Ministry