Today marks the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Although this is not a day that I observed for most of my life, it has lately become one of my favorite days in the church year. Perhaps because of the paradoxical idea that there can be so much hope and despair twisted together into this one day and spreading into the entire Lenten season.
On one hand, this day is meant to remind us that we were brought forth from the dust and to the dust we will return. It is a day to be carry our ashes in repentance for our sinfulness.
And yet, the ashes are pressed onto our forehead in the shape of the cross, a sign of our hope in the knowledge that redemption has already been provided through Jesus. We empty ourselves through the season of lent to prepare for the feast of celebration at Easter.
Hope and despair. Ashes and resurrection. Emptying out and overflowing. Lent and Easter.