March 6, 2019
“Ashes to go” is a phenomenon that surfaced a few years ago. It entails a designated person, within our tradition, a priest, standing on a busy street corner or in a shopping mall, prepared to impose the sign of the Cross on the foreheads of passersby. Generally the traditional pronouncement is made “You are dust and to dust you shall return”. This offering, though perhaps not terribly useful to enact at the corner of Prestone and Kennedy, certainly makes this symbol available to those with some memory of the season but who have no current connection with a faith community. And who knows, perhaps it even attracts seekers.
It is not so much about the form, however, as it is about its significance. Today, as we receive the Imposition of Ashes, we are reminded of the “uncertainty and frailty of human life” and our need for repentance and forgiveness, as individuals and as a faith community. The sign of the Cross, traced on our forehead, echoes our Baptism and calls us to ‘return to the Lord’ and prepare to renew our Baptismal promises. This requires some work! To start the journey, travelling light, Ash Wednesday is one of the two proscribed fast days, the other being Good Friday(yes, in the Anglican Church!) . You may wish to try fasting from solid food until you receive your Communion at night or to simplify your meal plan to a bowl of soup.
The path ahead is strewn with challenges and opportunities for growth. We walk it in the company of our Lord and all the saints of every age, coming, in due time, to the turbulence of Holy week, the horrors of Golgotha and, in sure and certain hope, to our Easter joy.