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You are Dust




The pinnacle of the Christian calendar is Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, a celebration marked by a forty-day preparatory period called Lent. Commencing on Ash Wednesday, this season reaches its climax during Holy Week, encompassing Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and culminating in the Vigil of Easter.

 

While Lent spans 40 days, Sundays within this period are excluded from the count, referred to as "Sundays in Lent" as they commemorate Jesus' resurrection. The significance of the number 40 is rooted in various biblical events, notably the period Jesus spent in the wilderness confronting temptations before embarking on His ministry. This season invites introspection, self-examination, and repentance, focusing on the essential need for God's grace. Practices such as daily office, devotions, fasting, or abstaining from certain activities are undertaken, and individuals may choose to read Christian literature, engage in acts of service, or demonstrate kindness.

 

Ash Wednesday, inaugurating Lent, involves a special liturgy symbolized by the imposition of ashes on foreheads. The ashes, remnants of burned substances like wood, paper or palm leaves, signify reduction to 'nothingness.' The ritual echoes the words, "You are dust, and to dust, you shall return."

 

The phrase 'You are dust' recalls the creation of the first human from earthly dust infused with the breath of God, underscoring our dependence on divine life. Without God's Spirit, we resemble lifeless ashes, emphasizing our unique role in creation as sentient beings created in God's image.

 

The reminder that 'to dust you shall return' reinforces the temporal nature of life and urges a reorientation toward eternity. We are always “returning” to that point of dust, whatever years we may have left. C.S. Lewis once said that ‘everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date’.


In the Old Testament, ashes were a symbol of penitence and mourning, aligning with the Lenten theme of acknowledging our reliance on God and being accountable for our use of the temporal gift of life.


The imposition of ashes on the forehead is intentional, as it is the location where the cross was signed during baptism. This practice serves as a poignant reminder of one's baptismal vow and covenant with the Lord.

 

May the rich tradition of Lent enhance your journey of discipleship, prompting reflection and a deeper connection with the profound themes of life, mortality, and the eternal.

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