Ash Wednesday admits the dark into an otherwise well-lit space. We dim the lights—no, we shut them off. And in their place, we light candles, but around the candles’ contained glow is shadow. That shadow alters familiar faces, draws us near to one another in a ring around our pastor and around the table that ordinarily holds the bread and the wine. Today that table holds candles, a cross, and a small dish of ashes.
Those ashes wait as we read the liturgy. They wait as we sing hymns, somber ones in minor keys. They wait until our pastor takes them up and calls us to him, pronouncing ancient words over each of us as we move toward him in single file. We lower our eyes as he says them, and we remember who we are:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
He then marks our foreheads with ash, drawn on in the shape of a cross.
Yesterday, my post about Ash Wednesday went up on the Deeply Rooted blog. You can read it in full here.