Ring around the Rosie / a pocketful of posies / Ashes, ashes we all fall down…
That last line from a children’s game may hold the answer to the question of whether or not Ash Wednesday is still relevant (yeah, I know the stories about how the poem refers to the plague, but that’s not fully substantiated).
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. Now, I will confess that I tend not to be a liturgically minded person. The colors of the banners and table coverings, the various seasons of the church year just don’t move me toward a deeper connection with God. My sister who is a nun in the Catholic Church? I imagine it has real significance for her because that’s how she’s wired. Because I’m not wired that way it doesn’t hit me the same. Each person finds themselves at different places in those things.
So, for me, I begin to wonder – does Ash Wednesday matter. My conclusion? Yes, it does.
It’s not because we need to mark the 40 days before Easter with a beginning, but because we need times when we purposely look at who we are. That’s Ash Wednesday – a time to begin a period of self-reflection. A day when we acknowledge our humanity, our finite existence, and our inability to be good and holy apart from God.
Ashes are the symbol of our mortality – “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” as it were. A reminder that we all fall down. We all fall down. We all fall short of who God created us to be. We all sin. We all do things to hurt others and things offensive to the Holy God who gave us life. Unless we take time to recognize that truth it doesn’t change.
Could we do that on any other day and not just Ash Wednesday? Sure, but isn’t it good to know that once a year, at least, we will be called to stop and acknowledge our reality? Isn’t it good to take one purposeful day to reflect on our own mistakes and rebellion and then be reminded that grace and forgiveness are freely offered to those who realize they need it and thereby ask for it?
Maybe the church liturgical calendar means more to me than I thought, because, when I stop to think about it, Ash Wednesday really does matter to me. Does it matter to you? If so, find a church with a service and let God speak to you in that moment.
Holy high five to you, Mike