“We therefore commit this body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.”
The Book of Common Prayer
The sober and compelling words of the burial rite in the Book of Common Prayer always bring us up short and reminds us of our own mortality. This coming week we once again share those words in our service on Ash Wednesday (7:00pm via Zoom). This service of worship includes the imposition of ashes and marks the beginning of the season of Lent –that 40 day period of preparation before Easter.
Lent, is based on an Anglo-Saxon word for “lengthen”. In the Spring the days length and this period came to be associated with Easter preparations. Lent is also a time in which Christians refrain from pronouncing Alleluias, devote themselves to self-examination, prayer and sometimes fasting. As a child we “gave up something for Lent” each year- usually a sweet of some sort. This self-denial was a way of both acknowledging Jesus’ sacrifice and focusing on our own limitations and mortality. This season then, rightly, begins with the solemn service of Ash Wednesday when we literally mark ourselves with ash remembering that our earthly life is finite. Our hope and expectation of eternal life is not our natural state but rather is the great gift given to us in the resurrection of Jesus on Easter – “because I live so too shall you live!”
This last year, with its pandemic and nearly a half a million deaths in this country alone, has been all the reminder any of us needs about the fragility of our lives. This Ash Wednesday as we impose ashes let us be mindful of all those who have perished.
From ashes we have come and to ashes we will one day go but the promise shown in Jesus’ resurrection is that death does not get the last word! Salvation gets the last word through God’s loving redemption of us. As we begin our Lenten journey let us ponder anew these things prayerfully. In Lent let us find or make time for self-examination, amendment of life and preparing our hearts and minds for a joyful Eastertide. Watch this newsletter for opportunities for study, worship and service in the season of Lent.
Yours for the journey,