Ash Wednesday

ashwednesday

Good to begin Ash Wednesday with a reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”   Today many will kneel at altar rails around the world.  Today many will hear these ancient words as pastors, with the ashes of last year’s palms, mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation.

Not difficult these days to remember that I am dust, that we all are dust and that to dust one day we will return.  Recently, I have watched loved ones and friends coping with intense physical and emotional pain.  I have been measuring out my own days in mere teaspoons of activity with the weakness of my CFS/ME.   As I’ve listened to the evening news, I have tried to imagine the agony of a young Syrian mother giving birth in a refugee camp after fleeing from all she had ever known and loved, or the distress of an Afghan father worried about finding money to bury his young son who had frozen to death in a Kabul shelter the night before.  With all that’s going on in my life and in the life of the world, I truly have to struggle some days to remember that God has indeed begun a good work in me, in all of us.  Struggle to believe that God is still at work to accomplish that good work and bring it to completion.  Easier these days—often—simply to feel the dustiness, the grittiness, the muddiness of life rather than to be aware of any glory of the divine at work within me and within our world.

Yet, as I kneel today and hear the beautiful words of the Ash Wednesday prayer, I find myself realizing that God is indeed at work in all our lives…

  • enabling us to trust as we grope our way through pain and weakness…
  • enabling us to keep hope alive amidst all the ugliness and fear so rampant in our world…
  • enabling us to see and cherish all the beauty that still shimmers and shines amidst the gloom…
  • enabling us to love and care for those who need our hearts and our hands.

Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation!

4 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday

  1. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day that I grew up with, so all these years later I am trying to understand it and incorporate it into my life. I was not aware of the second part of the Ash Wednesday prayer–“Accomplish in us, O God, the work of your salvation.”

    It is precisely because I am dust and to dust will return that makes this second affirmation so profound. The confession of my mortality and weakness is not a counsel of despair but an confession of dependence. Because I am dust, O Lord, my only hope is that you will accomplish your work of salvation.

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