Perusing the daily scroll of international news recently, an interesting item suddenly caught my eye.
Not because it had a dramatic headline about death and destruction or a shocking, eye-catching photo.
No, it was because it was about a solemn religious observance and how in recent years it’s been given a fresh, new spin.
I’m talking about Ash Wednesday, which is observed by many Christians, and marks the start of Lent – the 40-day period before Easter.
This year, Ash Wednesday happens to land on this very day.
There is, apparently, a growing movement just south of the border to take Ash Wednesday to the masses; to include people who don’t identify with any religious order or even regularly step foot inside a church.
The concept seems simple enough, but at the same time it surprised me. Churches across the United States and England, to name just a few countries, are embracing an innovative concept dubbed Ashes to Go.
At first glance I was skeptical.
I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was genuine, or if it was sullying the solemnity of the day and all that it symbolizes.
But as I read on, the more it kind of made sense.
Priests and pastors will be standing on street corners and visiting bus stops, coffee shops, city parks and train stations to mark the foreheads of interested passersby with ashes.
Typically, the ashes are spread in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of church goers during an evening mass or service.
It is a reminder that we came from dust and to dust we will return.
With Ashes to Go, people who have lost their connection with the church or for some reason are unable to make it to church can still take part in the centuries-old Christian tradition if they so choose.
It’s a way for busy people on the go to take a minute to re-establish the connection between their faith and the pressures of daily life, according to an article in the SR News out of England.
Ash Wednesday is a time to embrace forgiveness and prayer on the long road until Easter.
By medieval times, it had been established as a regular day of observance in the Christian year.
Though it’s probably one of the less visible Christian holidays and definitely not as exciting and joyful as Christmas or Easter, it’s a time to be thankful.
Thankful for the life we’ve been given.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality – something we don’t like to think about yet at the same time something we can’t escape.
And for one day we’re all the same, all facing the same truth – that when it comes right down to it, we’re all made of dust.
I don’t mean to sound grim – what I’m trying to say is it’s a time to remember to slow down and appreciate what you have.
We all lead busy lives and sometimes we feel like there are just some people we can’t relate to, no matter how hard we try.
But in the end, we’re all the same, no matter what your beliefs, where you grew up, where you work, or how you were raised.
Today, on Ash Wednesday, let’s embrace forgiveness, understanding, and most of all – one another.