Ash Wedsnesday, for me even before I accepted Christianity, was always something I couldn’t help but admire. There was just something I found poetic about it all. As a non-Christian, it was that one Tradition I could respect. The whole idea of spreading ashes into the same symbol that their God died on, as to symbolize their own death to the world— and then to have that, these ashes of death, be their bold proclamation to the world that they are Christians when they carry out their day. To blend those messages and dualize the symbol together; I’m dead, and I’m a Christian— as if this death was what being a Christian is all about— I just thought that was too poetic. Made me always thing of the ‘heretics’ like Joan of Arc or Jon Hus burned at the stake, for whom, even the pain of death wasn’t enough to abandon what they loved and believed. Pure poetry.
But there’s always something poetic about ashes and death. It was when I started personally persuing Christ, this got to be more than poetic appeal, but real. Like Emily Dickens’ I Died for Beauty chants how the Beautiful and Truthful are one an the same, this beauty to me became a Truth I could see.
And I saw those ashes were more than just death. It’s about new life. It’s like Baptism, ‘sharing in the death and resurrection’ of Christ. This resurrection that we hope for in these 40 days— a hope similar to those souls in the Flood— is more than just Christs’, it’s our own Resurrection from the death we followed him to. Out of our charred and suffering (it’s sure painful being burned alive) bodies of repentance, we get to embrace a new life, like making ‘Beauty from ashes’ as Isaiah said it. When the Father says the words “For dust Men are and to dust you shall return”—Yes, as men we are mortal, but as children of God and brothers in Christ, we are heirs to an immortal glory.