prior's message

Those affected by the wildfires of California last year surely know what ashes are. They saw everything reduced to ashes—gone in a short time. The ashes stood at first as a visible sign of loss, material, yes, but even deeply human loss whose worth cannot easily be calculated. But for some, looking at ashes also meant going forward, making a new start, new opportunities. In the ashes lay the possibility of letting the past go and beginning fresh.

Our Lenten season begins with ashes, with dust and dirt. We submit ourselves to being vulnerable. We acknowledge that there is not much we really can control. We are given a chance to acknowledge our losses, to the dying and grieving that take place even in daily life. Accepting ashes is the ritual that allows us to say we are broken and need healing. What we cannot easily say in words, we can say by receiving ashes.

The Lenten journey can then begin. We can shed old ways of thinking and behaving. We can let them become ash. We can allow God to be the creator and work on us again, shaping us by his hands rather than thinking that we can do everything with our own. When we have nothing to cling to, there is every possibility of growing anew. And that newness is just what awaits us at Easter. We are the new life that rises out of the ashes of the fire, the fire that burns at the start of our Easter Vigil. Hidden in letting something die, is a self that now rises not by itself but with the Christ whom the Father has loved and through him he has loved us from dust to new greenness.

~Fr. Joel Macul, OSB