If we were to conduct a survey and asked people the meaning of Ash Wednesday what would you think they would say? Some might say: no idea, others might refer to the devastating bush fires in Adelaide in 1983 and others may say it is a Christian day for peace and the first day of Lent. It is a 6 week period of preparation for EASTER. Ashes are placed on the forehead in the sign of the cross with a dictum “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”. Surprisingly, perhaps the heart understands better than the head because more people go to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year including Christmas.
The symbol of ashes is very powerful almost blunt or primal and speak to the very essence of what is human life. Fragile from birth, growing in love and confidence to return to a level of fragility in death. When we speak about ashes we know where it has come from, the very action is one of fire and a reduction to what we see and feel are ashes. In nature we do know that from ashes life begins, plants and trees regenerate and new life is drawn around. The sign of ashes on Ash Wednesday reminds us of a period of Lent when we are invited to reflect on our lives as we prepare for Easter.
At our service this week, Fr Roy invited us to think of LENT as an acronym of L-Lets, E-Eliminate, N-Negative and T-Thoughts. A simple message which places us in a frame of mind which sees the beauty of each day, the positive side of life, the beauty in people and a gratitude for life.
Lent is a time for us to reflect on our own life in terms of our personal sacrifice, special efforts of kindness and alms-giving (sharing of our resources). Lent therefore is a special time of continuing our challenge to break down barriers which prevent us from being fully Christian or fully human. How do we recognise these barriers and how should we respond? We respond in a Marist way of Simplicity, Presence, Love of work, Family spirit and the way of Mary, the mother of Jesus, our role model who taught us to love and cherish life.