Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dirt in your Forehead

"There's dirt in your forehead."

I usually give this joke to my friends after they attend the Ash Wednesday Service. They would tell me with all seriousness that it is Ash Wednesday as if reminding me that I better get one too. Then I begin to look serious and ask them, "why put ashes in the forehead? What does it mean?" Then I get blank stares.

I have been brought up to always ask and know WHY things are done the way they are done. A case of function over form.

Why put ashes in the forehead during Ash Wednesday?

One reason (I guess there could be other reasons) is that it is supposed to be a ritual that represents an ancient Near East tradition of repentance from sin against God. Yes, repentance from sin.

Now, if my friends do not know why they have dirt in their forehead, does it not follow that they do not know what it symbolize. Does it also mean that they were not repentant? They have the form but not the function?

I am not against ashes. In fact, I hope more Christians (especially liturgical Christians like umc) practice it. I just hope that more Christians also understand what they are doing because it matters. Now, how do I remove this dirt from my forehead?

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