Ash Wednesday: the beginning of lent

You are dust and to dust you shall return.  Repent and believe in the gospel.
With these words ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the faithful at mass on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  Lent, from the Teutonic word lente, meaning springtime, is the traditional forty-day period of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.
Ashes, in the Old Testament, were a common symbol of mourning and penance.  Today we receive them as a reminder of our transgressions and ask God to humble our hearts that we may embrace Lent with self discipline.  Our prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial work to bring us closer to the reality of our faults and to God’s gracious love for us as we embark on this penitential journey.  Thomas Merton said:  “Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy.  And Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.  It cannot be otherwise, as it forms a part of the great Easter cycle.”
Gracious God, we pray for the grace to enter this period of inner reflection and examination.  Guide and direct us to the holy space within us where your Spirit dwells.  Open our hearts to your presence and let your compassion fill us with your love.  Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.  Amen.

                                                                                                                           SSJ Associate Marti Michael