Ash Wednesday. Today is the beginning our Lenten journey into the wilderness. For centuries the season has started with the ritual of receiving ashes on our foreheads. This ritual is an outward and visible sign of our marking something new, of accepting and joining into the ancient story – again, as if for the first time. Some of us may go today to a place of worship and participate in this age-old practice of bowing our heads to receive the ashes. We will hear the words spoken to our grandmothers and to their grandmothers as well, “From dust you have come, to dust you shall return.”
It is a powerful practice to set out on this wilderness journey with these words of mortality echoing in our ears. Sensing in our hearts and in our bones the truth of our own beginnings and endings, we take our steps. Although on some level we all know that we weren’t meant to live forever, many of us don’t think about it much. As we step out on this journey of faith, we are reminded – again, as if for the first time - of the preciousness of time, the preciousness of living. This life we have been given is marked by time as surely as the mark we wear on our foreheads.
In this time of spiritual journey and intention, we are mindful of the opportunities of this season to turn and return to what matters most. On this Ash Wednesday we are invited to breathe deeply and to take stock of who we are and whose we are. We are reminded that our time on this earth is finite. Is it our deep desire to go through the motions each day? Do we want to sit in the audience and watch as the world spins on? Just as surely as we choose to take these steps into Lent, we know that we also choose how we spend the living of each day of our lives.
Ash Wednesday is our holy day of letting go. Today we are mindful of letting go of what no longer brings us life. It is the time of letting go of what we no longer find purposeful. It the day when we search our souls and lean into the heart of what is authentically and divinely alive in us. With the words still echoing in our ears, it is the day we sent out. It is moment we know that by letting go, we are opening ourselves up and making room for what matters most.