Beyond the Forehead: Ash on the Soul

The season of lent stands as the most solemn season in the universal Church. It is a season when the holy mother church, in keeping with a most ancient tradition, offers up the fine things of life in preparation for a divine ascent to the most sacred mountain of Easter. Beyond the imposition of ashes, the somber nature of the liturgy and the serene spirituality that accompanies the season, there is even more to the demands of this most holy and most ancient season of the church than the externalities so that, if one’s external portrayals are not in consonance with his or her inner dispositions, then such a person has missed the mark and then the many polemics of Jesus Christ as directed to the Pharisees should be hearkened to by such a person. The poser then is: is the ash also imprinted on your soul?

Characterizing this season are the themes of repentance and baptism, the aforementioned pair forms the ladder by which the ascent to the mountain of Easter is made possible and attainable. We do not make this ascent alone; we are accompanied by one who is essentially indescribable. The one whom we journey with this next forty days did tell his disciples, “Greater love has no man than to lay his life down for his friend.” And he did lay down his own life for his friends on the beam of the cross. Love, then, becomes the salutary consolation for both time and eternity. It becomes pertinent then, that whoever will choose to suffer with the lord must purify his sufferings for it is only in that light that the sufferings are caught up in the realm of love and sent up like fragrant incense to the throne of grace where a holy exchange is made.

The virtue of generosity finds its manifestation in one of the three pillars of this Lenten season; alms giving. The true Christian must learn to share even the little he has with others who have none, for what is love and generosity if it does not hurt the one who is giving? The bible gives us the example of the widow who put her only coin in the common purse and the many affluent individuals who contributed to the common purse from their abundance and how the Christ chose the contribution of the poor widow over and above the rich. This was not to condemn riches but to condemn unholy and unchristian attitudes towards riches and giving. I must comment quickly that alms giving and philanthropy are not the same thing. While the one is done for the praise of God, the other is done to gain the affirmations of men.

Beyond the externalities of the fasting, the alms giving, the abstinence and the physical imposition of the ash on the forehead, we must look into our soul and ensure that this ash on the forehead is also imprinted on the soul for that is where it matters most. It is a time of cleansing, purification and reparation. The bad we did, the good we failed to do and the love we wasted, we should ask for forgiveness and seek renewal at this time set aside for repairs and the lord  who in his vast abundance is essentially inexhaustible, also essentially indescribable in his smallest acts, simply because essentially, he is everywhere wholly present and essentially cannot be described, who gazes into the recess of our hearts and souls will see the good in us and bless it.

God bless you. Have a spirit-filled Lenten season, see you on the mountain of Easter!

About the Author

Idachaba Emmanuel

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