Another Take on Ashes . . .
More “fun facts” about the ashes that we use on Ash Wednesday . . . They are traditionally made by burning the palms from Palm Sunday the year before. Historically, ashes were symbols of mourning – of acknowledging loss. They were also a symbol of acknowledgment and sorrow for those moments when we have “missed the mark,” symbols of the people we have hurt and the things we have failed to do along life’s way. And here’s the paradox. ashes also have long been a symbol of renewal and cleansing – in the firey act of creating ashes, things can be let go of, and ashes have traditionally been used for cleaning and for medicinal purposes.
As we approach Ash Wednesday, our ashes can be a mixture of all the above – symbols of our loss and grief, of our need to acknowledge harm we might have caused, symbols of our intention to be open to renewal and healing. The act of placing ashes on our forehead or our hand is one of wearing all of this “on our sleeve,” so to speak – to allow the sorrows and failures to be transformed into agents of change and growth.
So we begin our uncluttering process by naming that which we would hold up before the fire – looking squarely and boldly in the eye of that which we would often prefer not to see in ourselves, and choosing what we offer up to be released and transformed.