Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Recently, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated Ash Wednesday.  The beginning of the season of Lent which leads to the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Many flocked to churches and attended service to receive ashes on their foreheads.  The symbol of the ash, for me, is a symbol of death and resurrection itself. 

Working in and studying Wildland Firefighting, I have come to both fear and respect the flames that blacken the ground before them.  They leave a wake of destruction, death and emptiness that cannot be filled.  To see the blackened ground, to stand in the ashes of the fire is humbling and eye-opening. 

In 2008, the Lane 2 fire ripped through the Bradshaw Mountains, stopping short of Crown King, AZ.  The destruction can still be seen.  Blackened trees stand broken, like bones protruding out of the ground.  The ground is barren and empty, and in places you can still see the black ash left by the flames. 

People recieve ashes on Ash Wednesday to remember the coming death of Christ, but more importantly, how he took our place on the cross.  We die to ourselves each and every day because Christ died for us.  We are marked by his death and take that upon ourselves. 

But fire and ash also bring life.  In the prairies and grassland that cover the midwest (between the Mississippi and the Rockies), fire brings life.  In burning off all the dead, overgrown, and dense grasses, the ground gets a chance to replenish itself and begin again. 

The phoenix rises from the ashes of its own death.  We rise to life from the ashes of a death that should have been ours.  The ash is a reminder of how we should live, constantly dying to ourselves so that we can live in the fullness of life that has been granted to us by God. 

The ashes and the meaning behind them mean nothing unless we live as God has called us to live.  Being marked by God is deeper than ashes smeared across ones forehead, but actions throughout our lives. 

As we go into this time of preparation for the celebration of the resurrection, let us be constantly reminded of the life we live and how we die for something more each and every day. 

God Bless and PEACE

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