collage on cardboard panel
by gregory a. milinovich
ash. it's grey and dark. it's charred and chalky. it's got a certain gritty, grainy texture. i know. i've been helping to lead ash wednesday services for several years now. i love this day, this day of ashes, this somber first day of lent. it's a day when we gather together as communities to recognize our brokenness and our mortality. and as a symbol we are marked with ash. in a symbolic way, we are covered in dust and dirt. grey grit sits on our skin on this day, the same dusty dirt we breath every day, the same skin we all share and settle in. every day. but on this day, this ash-day, this first day, we recognize right from the beginning what we normally try to ignore: that we are ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
when i recognize my own brokenness; when i admit my own weakness, when i come to be at peace with my own powerlessness, then God's power is awakened in me in powerful ways. when i am broken and cracked open enough to receive love, then i am empowered enough to love God and others.
and so today, as i feel the grit and grime on my forehead, i am reminded that i am broken: a human being full of breath and dust and skin and ash and, yes, sin. and the journey that i have started today will remind me again that the wages for that sin is death, but someone has paid it for me. this is a day of brokenness, but it is also a day of beginning a journey that will not end with brokenness: it will end with life and light and wholeness and beauty. but we start here. in the ashes.