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ASH WEDNESDAY: Day of Fast and Abstinence


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The Ash Wednesday liturgy is possibly the most meaningful liturgy in our liturgical Prayer. It offers us an opportunity to stop, reflect on who we are and whose we are, adopt an attitude of humility, hit the reset button, and begin again.

The Church has long recognized how challenging it is to keep these core promises that constitute walking in the Way of Christ. This is why we set aside these forty days each year for self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; to read and meditate on God’s holy Word. The ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us not only of our mortality and need for regular repentance but also that it is only by God’s “gracious gift that we are given everlasting life” through Jesus Christ.

Although we are to remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return, we ought never to forget that we are Holy Dust, created and inspired by the very breath and Spirit of God, as described in Genesis chapter 2: “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground  and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”  Just as Moses was reminded by the burning bush that he was standing on Holy Ground, so the ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us that  we are made Holy from the moment of our very first breath. Receiving these ashes is meant to remind us of these humbling and defining truths.

Next to the Cross itself, however, there is no more tender and revealing moment in God’s Word than that proclaimed on Ash Wednesday by the prophet Joel, who calls the people of God to a solemn assembly to pray for deliverance. Yet, amid this call to return to the Lord with all our hearts, the prophet reminds us of God’s very essence, and then imagines just how much the Lord our God loves us:

 ‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?’

Do we hear this? When we are  unable to turn our hearts and minds back to God on our own, the prophet imagines that the Lord God himself will make the appointed sacrifices himself, leaving a grain offering and a drink offering on our behalf – which offerings constitute the essence of our Eucharist. We are those people who, like the prophet, can imagine that God enters our lives and leaves an offering and blessing for us because our God is the God who is “all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent” 

 Ash Wednesday: A day to stop, reflect on who we are and whose we are, adopt an attitude of humility, and hit the reset button of our life in Christ. A day to remember that we are dust, but that we are Holy Dust, animated by God’s own breath. For it is God’s own Spirit that enlivens us and sustains us, day in and day out. A day to remember that God loves us so much as to make sacrifices for us when we are unable to do so ourselves. A day to allow God in Christ to forgive us so that we might live the residue of our lives reflecting the very love that God has for us and for all of creation. A day that we may remind ourselves with great humility to love God, love all others, and love all of creation itself. For that is what it means to be the Holy Dust of God! 



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Thank you, Cappie.  This would have been wonderful a few days before Ash Wednesday for me anyway.  All of a sudden, Ash Wednesday was right on top of me and I was caught totally unprepared with much to get done on a day I would prefer to be able to put aside and keep free.  

 But that's me. 😬

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