25 February 2009

Yearly Reminder (Another Rerun)

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.


Bryce P Wandrey said...

I agree with what you are saying about the significance and meaning of why the Church imposes ashes...

And yet, they imposed and they do disfigure the face on the day which the Church enters into her time of most intense fasting. For that reason, the association of ashes with "disfigured fasting" is a hard to disassociate.

William Weedon said...

It is hard to disassociate; but a distinct thing. The fast itself is not observed on the forehead but in the stomach. And many sport ashes who do not fast; and many fast who do not wear the ashes.

Omar said...

In hoc signis vincit.
( If my Latin is correct :-) )

What was once and object and sign of shame is now an objectand sign of triumph and victory.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The disfigurement of ashes is different than looking miserable and loudly bemoaning how hungry you are. Actually, ashes are quite neat - you can wear them and still wear nice clothing and the like. . . it is a emblem of repentance.

Past Elder said...

It's "in hoc signo vinces", in this sign thou shalt conquer.

Constantine thought he saw a cross above the sun, then had a dream in which Christ said it was a chi rho and he would conquer Maxentius in this sign. Maxentius was the "other" Roman emperor, the Western one.

He probably just fell asleep or passed out from fasting.

Better to leave these thing with the Roman empire.