During the Ash Wednesday service, the priest anoints the forehead of each participant with ash, saying “remember that you are dust - and to dust you shall return”. This is a reminder of the humility involved in acknowledging that this earthly existence is time-limited - and the need to do all we can to live a life of generosity and love while we have the chance.
Lent is traditionally a penitential time - looking inwards at how our life is going. We are encouraged into feeling ‘sorrow for our past sins’ - but in a way that opens our eyes to the need for repentance - a word that literally means turning. It’s about taking time to reflect, take stock and decide about which direction to take from here. Repentance is not about beating yourself up; it’s about healthy self-examination, positivity in committing yourself to the things that really matter in life: being bearers of the things of Christ in a harsh world.
That being the case, and seeing that this Ash Wednesday we cannot gather together as we normally do, you might like to do the following:
· Spend some time reflecting on where you are in life. This is not an exercise in ‘Am I being good enough?’ but in the light of Easter’s message of ‘love leading the way to life’, in which direction do you want your life to head now?
· With a finger, make the sign of the cross on your forehead - no physical ash is needed
· Bring to mind the words that the priest, if present, would use: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. Let the words remind you of your mortality and the things beyond this life; let them encourage you to focus on your life’s future course: your remaining time on this planet, following The Way of Christ.