Reflections... Dust & Ashes
Dust and ashes. It is especially significant that Ash Wednesday also marks the start of our Lenten study of the book of Job.
The book of Numbers describes the use of ashes in purification rituals. Although the king of Nineveh repents in dust and ashes in the book of Jonah, the book of Job provides perhaps the best expressions of ancient repentance practices using ashes. In 42:6 Job decries his sinfulness and covers himself in dust and ashes. His actions express a desire to be purified from his sins, and an acknowledgement of his own mortality compared to the unending glory and holiness of God.
The Hebrew word for dust and ashes in Job 42:6 is the same word for dust in Genesis 2:7, from which God formed man. Similarly, the Hebrew word for ground, adamah, is where the proper name, Adam, is derived. As such, ashes remind us that we are each a creation of God, carefully, lovingly, and wonderfully made. We come from ashes, ashes purify us, and to ashes we will return. But in this context, to return to ashes can mean being returned into the hands of our Creator.
Finally, in Ezekiel 9, the angel of the Lord marks the foreheads of all who are troubled by sin. Revelation 7 and 9 also describes those who have a seal on their foreheads, however, in 14:1 this seal, this mark, is revealed to be the name of Christ.Ash Wednesday, therefore, is imbued with tremendous significance and tradition, and is a wonderful way to initiate Lent, a season of repentance and remembrance.