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Ash Wednesday ushers in the Season of Lent. Did you know that both the Dutch word “lente” and the German word “Lenz” mean spring? Lent has something to do with spring: awakening, forthcoming, returning. Tim Conry put the two ideas together in a beautiful song:

We rise again from ashes: from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew.

Do we? Can we create ourselves anew like the mythical phoenix? For the Church, following the biblical tradition, ash is a symbol of universal mortality resulting from the fall of original man. Scattering ashes on one’s head was an expressive gesture, not only among the ancient Israelites but also among Egyptians, Arabs, and Greeks of sorrow, lamentation and penance. Christ is the True Phoenix arising from the ashes; only he can “create anew”, and he does so by his Precious Blood, which literally and figuratively mingled with our “ashes” to give them new fruitfulness.

Have a Blessed Lent!

Sr. M. Annette Buschgerd cps