Ash Wednesday Meditation
ASH WEDNESDAY by Roberta Egli
“O fragile human, ashes of ashes and filth of filth! Say and write what you see and hear.”*
We begin our Lenten landscape journey in the rather bland monochromatic place of dust and ashes. Whenever I clean out the fireplace, attempting to clean and create space for a new fire, I am reminded that ashes, just as dust are difficult to gather into one place. Ashes and dust are messy business and the more we attempt to clean our homes and perhaps our very lives of the messiness of dust and ash, the more it simply falls softly into a different space.
On Ash Wednesday, many of us will gather as communities of faith to be marked with the sign of a palm-ash cross on our foreheads. The palms that last year heralded the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem in worship have now turned to ashes that mark the beginning of our Lenten journey, of turning to face the shadows of the cross. On our way towards the cross we will walk with Jesus as he encounters a variety of terrain but we begin here, in the essence of our mortal bodies—ashes and dust.
For some of us, being reminded of our mortality may seem quite morbid but there is hope to be found among the ashes of our existence. Hildegard of Bingen was a German mystic of the twelfth century who was a writer, poet, composer, innovator, and person who longed for a deep relationship with God. Her words remind us that there is nothing that needs to hold us back in living full lives as we remember that we began as dust and we will return to dust. Rather than being afraid, let us embrace each day fully with our whole selves as we walk through the various landscapes of life. Where will Jesus meet us this Lent? Perhaps we will meet him at the rocky springs beside the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4:7-30) or in the mudflats where Jesus is waiting to heal us as he spits into the dust of earth (John 9:1-41).
Prayer: God of mercy, we hear your call to return to you with all of our heart. As we reflect upon our response to this call, free us of our fear so that we may follow Christ through all the landscapes we will are invited to enter this season of Lent. In the name of Christ we pray, AMEN.
*[The Ways of the Lord: Hildegard of Bingen, foreword by Homer Hickam, edited by Emilie Griffin; translation by Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop, selections from the 1990 Paulist Press translation of Scivias (Harper One: New York 2005)]