Feb 24, 2022
Why are so many people so keen on “getting the ashes”? The question naturally comes to mind as Ash Wednesday approaches.
Maybe it will be different this year--lots of things are different in the Age of Covid--but in normal times in the past the first day of Lent, along with Christmas and Easter, has been one of the times in the year when packed churches were the rule instead of the exception.
For several years I worked in an office in Washington, D.C., a five-minute walk from the White House, and, attending mid-day Mass on Ash Wednesday in one of the downtown churches, I invariably was moved at seeing the universality of the Church so visibly enacted by the long line of worshipers streaming up the aisle to get their ashes.
Here were men and women, old and young, white and black, Asian and Hispanic, street vendors and bureaucrats, construction workers in their work clothes, lawyers in custom tailored suits--and all of them come together to acknowledge the same profoundly egalitarian truth: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”