Posted by: fvbcdm | February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday (13 Feb 2013)

Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the most important and significant days in the Church’s calendar. It is the beginning of the holy season of Lent—an intrusion into our yearly round of activities, both spiritual and temporal. Even the external trappings of our religious life indicate that: the color of the vestments changes from the green of growth and vitality to the purple of penance. There are no “alleluia’s; no “Gloria’s”; and most dramatic of all the sacramentals on this day is the blessing and conferring of ashes upon the faithful who come to receive them.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return,” the Church reminds us while smudging our faces with the ashes from last year’s palms on Palm Sunday. It’s interesting that we often speak of human remains as “ashes.” As, for example, “Napoleon’s ashes were returned to France, to be buried with great solemnity in Paris.” Actually, ashes are the result of fire so the use of the word in terms of human remains after death is somewhat inaccurate, unless the body was cremated. However, whether we allow a body to return to its component parts naturally or whether we cremate it, the result is the same: what used to be a living, active human body which we knew and loved is now just a small amount of physical matter since water, the main component of the body, has been eliminated.

When the Church says to us: “You are dust,” she is only telling part of the story. Yes, our bodies are made from the dust, or dirt, of the earth, but not our souls. They are spiritual realities which come directly from the hands of God, and they will not die. However, it is well for us to reflect upon this duality in our nature: body and soul; animal and angel; temporal and eternal. And that is the real point of this holy season of Lent. Our bodies clamor for pleasure, satisfaction, comfort, food, drink, sex, leisure. But those bodies will decompose in a grave or tomb somewhere when the soul goes into eternity. Therefore it is only good common sense that we should spend much more time, attention, and effort upon the soul than on the body. The philosophy of the worldling is: “Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow you die.” That of the spiritual man is: “Pray, fast, and give alms, for those things go with you into eternal life.”

So let us use Ash Wednesday well, and the Lent that it begins. Let us make it a time of preparation not just for the feast of Easter, but much more so, of the eternal feast of Heaven! 

Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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