I am sure I am not telling you anything you don't know by saying that today is Ash Wednesday. If I am, then... now you know. Technically known as the day of ash, this is an opportunity for Christians to attend a special church service, which includes the imposition of ashes on their forehead as a sign of penitence, and preparation for lent.
The ashes are made by burning the palm crosses and fronds left over from Palm Sunday last year. That's right; we burn last year's crosses, and keep the ashes to put on our heads this year.
Well there are many theological explanations for this, but I am just a simple FISH, and so this is how I like to see it.
Palm Sunday was the day the crowds welcomed Jesus in to the city by waving palm branches. Then five days later they cried out for his crucifixion. Five days! The same people; some of them probably still had splinters of palm branches in the hands that they made into fists to shake at Pilate. So wearing the palm cross on my forehead, reminds me of the times that I have acclaimed Jesus as lord of my life, and then turned around and betrayed him with my next breathe. The 40 days when I am figuratively wearing the ash, is 40 days where I need to focus myself on preparing myself for Easter, and my own response. 40 days where I need to try and draw closer to him, and remind myself what he did for me, and my own guilt in making it necessary. 40 days where I need to keep that 'splinter' in my proverbial hand, as a reminder not to be part of the crowd calling for his crucifixion.
Of course, that's just what it means to me.
Day of sack, day of ash.
As we burn last year’s sins,
And wear them on our brow.
So we carry other’s burdens,
and hope to lighten our own.