February 27, 2012

Dust and Ash

Lent has begun. Last Wednesday—or yesterday, at the Sunday Mass, as it happened to me and many other latecomers as well—we took the blessed ashes upon our foreheads and accepted the invitation of the Church to go into the desert with the Lord. “And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days …” (Mark 1: 12-13). That’s why Ash Wednesday is one of the most important holy days in the Christian calendar; that’s why it’s more than just the beginning of the Lenten season: it sums up the spirit of Lent itself, and symbolizes a humbling of oneself before the Lord. It reminds us that life passes away on Earth: Dust to dust, ash to ash…

In the video below Father Robert Barron—“one of the Church’s best messengers,” as Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, calls him—comments on the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He offers practical advice to enact these three pillars in your own life. In addition, he comments on the traditional practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. I believe it may be of help to those who want to follow Jesus into the desert.

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