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Feb 14, 2018

“Remember You Are Dust:” the Meaning of Ash Wednesday

Philip Wright

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but also, though only coincidentally, today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the official start of the season of Lent, which runs to Easter time which this year falls at the end of March. It is a day of penitence and confession, marked, literally, by Christians attending church and receiving a cross of ashes on their foreheads, from the palms burned after the previous year’s Palm Sunday. For Christians, as noted by Anglican Bishop Philip Wright, it is an opportunity to start anew, forsaking things of the flesh for the service of God, and a reminder of human mortality, expressed in a classic Biblical phrase which Bishop Wright tells us more about.

 

Bishop Philip Wright, Anglican Diocese

“When we do put the ashes on people’s foreheads, we do say the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And I think what it is, it is a reminder that between birth and death, we have a life to live. And God has called us to live that life to its fullest, and one of the ways we live that life to the fullest is by seeking a healthy relationship with God. And so Lent, every year, gives the faithful an opportunity to do some introspection, some self-evaluation, and to really seek to improve their relationship with God so that they can live this life that God has called us to live. So the ashes are a kind of sober reminder: at the end of the day, this is what we are, and between now and when we return to the dust, God has called us to live the fullest life and to make a difference in the world.”

 

Aaron Humes

“So all those traditions about people exchanging meats like chicken and so on for fish, that kind of thing – that’s just adornment, no?”

 

Bishop Philip Wright

“To some extent. I think for me the more meaningful side of it is that you can give up meat and eat fish, or you can give up anything you want – but at the end of the day I believe the hope is that you are seeking to improve the quality of your relationship with God, which leads to the improvement of the relationship with other people, and hopefully, it all makes the world a better place.”

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