Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.
The first time ashes were imposed on my forehead, I found a cacophony of voices inside me: “Come! Now you have betrayed your background! This is straight back to the Dark Ages. Fancy Saint Paul’s doing this!”
I knew it was not so when the priest came along with the little pot of damp ashes and with his thumb smudged my forehead—my forehead, the very frontal and crown of my dignity as a human being!—and said, “Remember, O man, that dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.”
I knew it was true. I would return to dust, like all men, but never before had mortality come home to me in this way. Oh, I had believed it spiritually. But surely we need not dramatize it this way…
Perhaps we should, says the Church. Perhaps it is good for our souls’ health to recall that our salvation, far from papering over the grave, leads us through it and raises our very mortality to glory. We, like all men, must die. I felt the strongest inclination to wave the priest past as he approached me in the line of people kneeling at the rail. Not me—not me—like Agag coming forth delicately, hoping that the bitterness of death was past.
Yes, you. Remember, O man…
-Thomas Howard, Evangelical is not Enough
Cross and ash on white background by czarny_bez