Ashes and dust and repentance. This day speaks less of guilt and grovelling than of grace and God’s heartbeat of love which calls again and again “return to me.”
On this first day of Lent, many Christians wear crosses of ash on their foreheads, a reminder both of our own dustiness and fragility (“Dust you are and to dust you will return”) and a sign of repentance, an echo of the traditional wearing of sackcloth and ashes in times of mourning.
We mourn our sinfulness. But the Hebrew word translated “repent” means “to turn, to return.” Repentance goes far beyond contrition and sorrow to a double turning: away from sin and toward the Love that calls.
It is quite possible to wear the ashes, to weep, without actually turning to God.
“And they do not cry to Me from their heart
When they wail on their beds. . .” (Hos 7:14)
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