The Ash Wednesday Worship Service is becoming a more popular event among the Protestants, particularly the Protestants and Methodists. I do not have a scientific reason for its spread. It may be because some of the pastors are from a Catholic background and they have incorporated it in their newer tradition, which happens to be Protestant. While we do not have an Ash Wednesday in Baptist Churches, I have become very appreciative of the meaning of this historic service which is primarily held in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches.
One of the reasons that I like this worship service is that it gives me an opportunity to see who is Catholic in our town. I go to the pharmacy, the mechanic’s shop, the grocery store and I see the members of Catholic parishes display the symbols of their religious practice. I compliment many of them for their willingness to publicly profess their faith.
The second reason that I like this Worship Service is because it reminds us that we are mortal. The words of this service tell everyone – young and old – that we are pilgrims on this earth and that there is an ending to our lives. While conversing with young people, I find out that those who have thought of their finality have a greater appreciation of their own bodies than those whose parents or teachers thought that such topics are too scary to be shared with children and youth.
The third reason that I like this Worship Service is because the divine Son of God steps into our human dust and ashes. We are told by Paul that the humility of Jesus Christ was that he did not considered equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Phil. 2:7)
The last reason that I like this Worship Service is because it gives hope to all those who will become dust and ashes. The hope is not in the ashes themselves, but in the Spirit of God. Paul tells the Christian believers that the same Spirit that brought Jesus Christ back to life will bring back to life the mortal bodies of all those that have believed in him on the Last Day. From the Day of Pentecost until this day, many pastors and priests have bid farewell to loved ones who died in the Lord with these words, “Dust to dust and ashes to ashes until that glorious day when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and the dead (the ashes and the dust) in Christ shall rise first and be caught with the Lord in the air.”
Ashes and dust remind us of the temporary nature of our lives here on Earth. They also remind us that this life is not the end. The triumph and the glory belong to Jesus Christ who became one of us so that we may become like him.