Lenten Meditations

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Lenten Meditation: The Marking of Ashes

by Sally Howard

The marking of ashes on the forehead is an ancient sacramental gesture that in one quick moment, parades the whole of life before our eyes.

When we impose the ashes, we quote a verse from Genesis: “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.” (Gen. 3:19). In quoting this passage, the church calls to mind the entire narrative of the garden, and specifically, God’s decree concerning the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15) the woman (v.16), and the man (v. 17-19) because the church’s understanding of God has been infused with atonement theology and a toxic dualism that splits our being into good spirit and bad body, we tend to hear this text as one more denunciation of sin, as though Ash Wednesday were a celebration of our sin and unworthiness.

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