06 February 2008

Yearly Reminder

The Ash Wednesday Gospel speaks against disfiguring faces to show others that you are fasting. People sometimes mistakenly think that's what the ashes for which this day is named are all about. Wrong.

The ashes are put on with the words from Genesis 3: "Remember, O Man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." The ashes show not fasting, but DYING. They are sign not of practicing piety, but of the rock bottom reality of life in a fallen world. They announce to us: "I am dying...and so are you."

But the ashes are always placed on in the form of a cross to remind us that there is a reality that is even more rock-bottom than death: there is One who became our dying Dust for us and took that Dust through death upon a cross and burial into a glorious resurrection and a life that never ends. We are dying; we are headed to death indeed, but we do so in faith in Him who shared our nature to make us divine, who became a child of man doomed to dust, that we might become the children of God, destined for heavenly glory in union with Him.


Mimi said...

May it be a blessed and fruitful Lent for you and your parish.

William Weedon said...

Thank you, Mimi. I know it's too early to wish you the same - but I do wish it for you, when your Lent arrives. Pax!

Past Elder said...

Having only the pew edition of the LSB, I wonder if the "altar book" has, Vatican II style, alternate things to "remember, man, that thou are dust ... ".

The last Ash Wednesdays I remember as an RC, after the Council, the usual revisionist phrase was "Reject sin, accept the Gospel". Which is certainly no false admonition, but misses the point of the day -- as you say, to remember that death is the destination of everyone bodily, and that apart from the Cross there is only ashes. So you had "Catholic" Ash Wednesday with ashes and without the meaning of them, and "Protestant" Ash Wednesday with the meaning without the ashes. Sometimes, I'm just so glad to be Lutheran I just have to, well, blog about it!

William Weedon said...

Terry, no alternates. Just: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Past Elder said...

Hot Dog!

Hard to improve on Genesis 3:19 -- not that that deters Rome.

I've never heard this expressed, which is probably only due to my lack of reading compared to a pastor's training (though my Dad once remarked, looking at my books as I was writing my dissertation, that it looks like you're studying to be a priest rather than a music theorist) but does it strike anyone that these words were spoken by God right after the Fall, so, Lent begins with the judgement of God as sin begins its reign and ends with the end of sin's reign in the Triduum?

At least in the Western church -- I understand Eastern Lent begins neither with ashes nor on a Wednesday, but in the Western liturgy what possibly could improve on this usage for crying out loud. OK, I'll stop before getting into a rant against the miserable revisionism of the novus ordo and its woeful effects upon Lutheran worship. Won't even mention it!