Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. In the tenth century the use of ashes was employed in visibility reminding worshippers of their mortality as they began their Lenten journey to the cross. The biblical witness is found in the opening epic of the human story: “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3: 19)
This first day of Lent reminds us that two things are involved in genuine repentance: “the dying of the old self and the coming to life of the new.” The way to Easter is the way of the cross. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3) New life with Christ involves a daily surrendering of the old life. The first step of this Lenten journey invites us to acknowledge our mortality and our sinfulness by the imposition of ashes.