Ash Wednesday at Faith started in the morning with mini-chapel. Thirty five pre-preschoolers heard a message from Pastor John, learning about the tradition of using ashes and about the season of lent. The message closed with a blessing with water – rather than ashes – a more accessible ritual for little ones. Each child received the sign of the cross on his or her forehead and heard the message: “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”
At our evening service, those who received the imposition of ashes were invited to write their names on a piece of paper and then press the paper over the cross on their foreheads. This left an impression of a cross on the paper. The collected papers were burned in a bonfire in the Prayer Garden Columbarium after the service, symbolizing the release of our sinful nature.
“Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:
- Ashes remind us of God’s condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
- Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently in the absence of soap. Even on Ash Wednesday, this most penitential day, we receive ashes in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our bodies with water in our baptism. Even in this ashen mark of death, we anticipate the new life of Easter.
- Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried into the ground or as ashes are placed in a columbarium (see “What are columbaria and memorial gardens?”). “We commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 284).
- Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.”