By Dr. Fr. Charles NDHLOVU
So, finally we are again in the Lenten season! Ash Wednesday communicates! We begin the Lenten time on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the time of Lent. It is a season that starts with the anointing with ashes on the forehead.
The ashes that one is anointed with on Ash Wednesday signify first of all that we are dust and to dust we shall return. It is a reminder that we are made of soils.
The human person was moulded from the soils. God created Adam from the soil – it is from the soils that the Adam was moulded. God breathed breath into the moulded soils and the person was able to walk and move and have a life again.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of what we as human beings are – we are dust and to dust we shall return.
Our ancestor Adam was created from dust and we have somehow inherited the nature of Adam – we are humans.
As humans – we always remind ourselves of our ancestor Adam who was made of dust and we believe that it is from this same dust that we will one day go back and return to.
We will one day die and decompose. From that decomposition – we will have a new life. But before that we will die and return to the soils. The Ash Wednesday anointing reminds us about this – we are not as strong as we may think we are.
We are not as solidified as we may think. We are not as independent from God – as we do sometimes deceive ourselves. Life is more – especially when we go back to the roots – to the foundations from which we began. There we discover the reality of the first creation – we are made of earth. We are
made of soils.
We celebrate on Ash Wednesday this reality of our earthiness – we celebrate the reality of our beginnings. We celebrate the reality of where we are coming from – from the soils from which we were moulded.
The earthiness – the soil – reminds us of something more – that we have a beginning thatis humble. We were brought into existence from moulded soils. God took a heap of soils and Ash Wednesday through his own work – moulded the first person – Adam.
We have inherited the earthiness. We have inherited the humility of the first person. We have inherited the humility of our beginnings– soils.
It is this humility that we must carry within ourselves as we celebrate Ash Wednesday.
We must carry within ourselves the humility of who we really are. We must carry within ourselves the humility that we are called to realize. We are not of our self-beginnings.
We were brought into life and that was done by God. We carry with us this humble beginning as we go to be anointed with the Ashes on our foreheads.
We carry the Ashes on our foreheads all through the day and then become aware of our soil-nature.
As we celebrate Ash Wednesday – we cannot but think of what we have become in life. The states of lives could be different – the way we work and do whatever tasks could not be the same – but the endings are the same.
We all must die and we all must give account of our lives before God – we must all sit before God and account for the breath – for the life that we have lived.
We have to give an account of our earthiness – of our earth-nature – of our soil-nature and then God in the life to come will give us eternal life in glorified bodies.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that we will die and death is the door towards eternal life. We will die and then decompose – we will go back to earth and out of God’s mercy and grace – we will rise to life everlasting in our glorified bodies.
As we begin Lenten time – we are reminded of this – that we have begun a journey from the Ash Wednesday, through the Lenten
time to Easter time.
We get ashes to remind ourselves of our death – our coming home to God the Father and then eventually we remind ourselves of the need for repentance and penance all through the time of Lent.
We feel the urge to repent so that we can come before God with hearts that are pure and holy.
We do that throughout the time of Lent and then finally Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Vigil.
It is all the more fitting to be anointed with ashes during this time when there are so many crises in the world.
One only needs think about the situations of disease, displacement of people,
the wars that that are fought, issues of gender inequalities and issues of violence all through the world.
We cannot but think about these issues in the perspective of death – we continue to die slowly – we continue to die in various ways through which we experience some reduction in our Ash Wednesday lives and some unfulfilment.
We continue to think also about those that have actually returned to
the Father – they returned to dust. We too will someday return to dust in the real and actual sense.
We pray that God’s love with carry us through Ash Wednesday and the Lenten time that we begin. Have a wonderful Ash Wednesday and prayerful Lenten Season