By now Our Ash Wednesday ashes are long wiped clean from our forehead. Heeding Jesus words not to show off our repentance, I wiped them off before going out to eat at Golden Corral after the service.
But in some reading today I was reminded that those ashes are more than a smudged cross on the forehead.
Poet Elizabeth -Anne Vanek wrote: You thumbed grit into my furrowed brow, marking me with the sign of mortality, the dust of last year’s palms.
Thomas Merton wrote: The cross, which the ashes traced upon us, is the sign of Christ’s victory over death.
Another poet, Mary Claire van Orsdal wrote that though the ashes puts us in touch with death, she ties them also to birth, “dirt mixed with blood of woman giving birth.”
Ashes are a sign that we are born of dust, we live as dust, die and return to dust, but the cross shape is our victory over death.