Ashes and Oil (Ash Wednesday)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar. Typically it is a day of repentance, marking the beginning of forty days of fasting as we lead into Easter. But today, looking at the readings set for the day, I found a pleasantly surprising pattern in what the readings were saying: that fasting with self-indulgent sorrow is not what God requires, but a penitent and faithful heart, and a desire to love the poor and needy. I have tried to pick up on some, though not all, of these themes in my poem for the day, and will hopefully be able to reflect on these ideas as Lent goes on.

You may want to look at the Ash Wednesday readings yourself to help guide your own thinking. The value of Lent, I think, is to prepare our hearts for Easter so we do not get distracted by the eggs and the bunnies but think instead about the cross, which lies at the heart of the Christian faith. I hope this Lent can be a blessed time for all of you – and please feel free to share your thoughts and prayers here as we work through Lent together.

Ashes and Oil (Ash Wednesday)

Lord have mercy.
We smear our faces ashen black
And leave our hearts the same dark hue.
Lord have mercy;
Write into
Our dusty hearts Your truth.

God have mercy.
If only our foreheads bear the ash,
Our hearts have not knelt at Your Cross.
God have mercy;
Make our hearts
Penitent and true.

Christ have mercy.
Obedient in that forty-day desert,
You triumph where we can only fail.
Christ have mercy;
Jesus, be
The righteousness we crave.

Lord have mercy.
You do not despise what You have made
And You animate our ashen hearts.
Lord have mercy;
Breathe in us.
Anoint our heads with oil.

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