Forty extraordinary days for purifying our hearts and
for recovering our dignity and our hope for a better future.
To embark on this journey, we receive the ashes. The
first liturgical gesture of Lent is the imposition of ashes, a “multi-purpose”
symbol with several meanings. When the ashes are placed on our foreheads, we
are usually told, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,”
or “Be converted, and believe in the Gospel.” These phrases are self-explanatory,
but the ashes themselves can be interpreted in various ways.
First, the ashes make us aware of the shortness of our
existence, and this awareness leads us to realise that we cannot waste our time
on what is not worthwhile. Just as ashes were once used to clean kitchen
utensils, leaving them shining like new, so also ashes symbolise the repentance
of those who convert and return to their Origin, God.
In some agricultural settings, ashes are applied to
certain foods and fruits - bananas and avocados, for example - to help them
ripen. In the same way, ashes symbolise the acceleration of our maturing as
persons, until we reach the model of the Man Jesus. Finally, “where there was
fire, ashes remain.” Thus, paradoxical as it may seem, not only do ashes
symbolise our finiteness, but they also remind us that we are made for
Eternity, that we are not trapped in this history.
we have before us a privileged time for purifying the heart and regaining dignity
and hope. We can do so by being more aware of our dependence on God and by remaining
in solidarity and in constant communication with our Lord, to whom we offer
everything. May the God who is on fire with zeal for us, the God who always forgives
us, also enable us to become co-workers in his loving plan for all.