From ashes on our foreheads to the cleansing waters of the Baptismal font we travel this journey of repentance as sinners needing, waiting for the salvation offered to us at Easter. We must first put on our ashes except our mortality and remember we are dust and to dust we will return.
In order to walk this journey of repentance we must first know why we walk it. Dotted all throughout the Old Testament ashes are a call of repentance. The clearest example being the King of Nineveh, when hearing Jonah calling the town to repent, “He rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes” (Jonah 3:6). Then, in the New Testament ashes as a sign of repentance continued when Jesus said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). One way the Church embraces this call of repentance is through the Order of Penitents. In the early Church, the Order of Penitents was reserved for those who had committed grave sin. They would enter the Church after not having been able to enter the Church for the time of their penance with ashes sprinkled on their cloths. Then, after being reconciled to the Church and by fulfilling their penance the ashes were removed. They were home again in the Church and cleansed of their sin.
On this, a day of repentance, Ash Wednesday, we come together and will have proclaimed to us the Gospel of Matthew. In it Jesus preaches out against those who perform righteous deeds in order to be seen. It can easily be mistaken that as we sport the ashes on our foreheads we are those righteous ones wanting to be seen. However, ashes are not about our personal holiness instead they are a mark of the Church, a community of sinners seeking salvation in Christ. We are on this journey of repentance together and as One Church we proceed forward with ashes on our foreheads, hope in our hearts, and Christ in our actions. Only together can we reach the salvation offered to us at Easter and “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Join us, mark yourself as a member of the Holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church. Repent, Christ gave us the Church in order to reach Him for we need the community of sinners in the Church to make it to heaven.
By: Andrew Thomas