Going back to the 8th century, Christians around the world have marked the beginning of the Lenten season with worship on Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday affords us the opportunity to remember. We remember the creation story in Genesis 2 where “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).
The dust of the ashes serves to remind us both of where and from whom we have come.
The ashes stand as a stark reminder of our mortality. Ash Wednesday invites us into faith practices older than we are and traditions that span across centuries.
Going back to the story of Job and his turning away from a too-small-vision of God’s way, he repents “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). In various corners of the canon, we find different biblical characters employing ashes to mark their bodies as signs of sorrow and repentance.
For example, Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:19, the wayward people of Israel in Jeremiah 6:26 and Ezekiel 27:30. Jesus invokes the practice in Matthew 11:31 when he issued warnings to those living in cities not heeding his invitation to repentance.
Reflect and see forgiveness at the foot of the cross.
Art by Dr. Israel Galindo, Dean, Colombia Theological Seminary