Lent, which begins this Wednesday, cannot be separated from Easter—not then and not now. Just as it was for the early Christians, it is a time for us to prepare our hearts and reflect more deeply on our baptismal call to continuing conversion. This call to conversion is at the forefront of Lent from the first day of the season. On Ash Wednesday, people flock to churches to receive ashes and to be told, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” These two formulas for the imposition of ashes offer insight into the meaning of this season. The first formula is a memento mori, a remembrance of death. Even in our world, where rituals surrounding death are increasingly sanitized and privatized, this formula reminds that the reality of death is undeniable. The second formula is a call to repentance—urging us to turn away from sin and toward the Good News.
Both of these formulas also invite us to deeper meditation on our baptism and the Paschal Mystery. The first tells us that we shall die and return to dust, but we already know that we need not fear death. After all, we have already been “buried with Christ in the death of baptism” so that we may “rise also with him to newness of life” (RCIA,222.) The second echoes the message of John the Baptist, who spent his ministry “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” Luke 3:3).
Because of COVID-19 we will be dispensing ashes differently this year. Instead of signing your forehead with a cross there will be a sprinkling of ashes on the top of your head. If you cannot attend any of our three services you may visit the parish office during the day and one of our staff will dispense the ashes on your head. May you have a blessed and fruitful Lenten season.