“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.” ~ Thomas Merton
Ash Wednesday, for many, can be a day of foreboding. First of all, it is a day that requires that we fast (between the ages of 18 and 59) and that we abstain from eating meat and meat products (anyone over the age of 14). Second, it is a day when we are requested to dedicate ourselves to self-sacrifice throughout the season of Lent. Third, it reminds us that we should do more in our daily lives to serve the Lord. Finally, it reminds us of our own mortality, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
These are not “happy thoughts”. No one likes to think about doing more. No one likes to focus on their sinfulness. And no one likes to be reminded that they are going to die. We do not focus on death, we focus on our daily lives. We plan jobs and careers and purchases and vacations. We do not plan to die.
Ash Wednesday, therefore, can be a “dark” day. Yet, in that darkness, God speaks to us. He reminds us that we are dust but that there is something greater in store for us at the end of our days. He lets us know that, if we do His will, we have the opportunity to become more holy and to impact the lives of others in a very positive way.
God is so good to us. In return, He asks us to take up our crosses and to follow in the footsteps of His Son. We can do this. The reason that we can do this is because He will be walking with us. God never asks us to walk alone. He will always be at our side.
We begin a very holy season today. The day can be dark and frightening; yet, the glory of God shines in all the dark places of our lives and lights the way. Let us pick up our crosses, let us embrace our Lenten observances, and let us walk faithfully with God.
FAITH ACTION: Celebrate your faith today even as you keep the penitential nature of this day.
Remember, Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence.