O God, who not death but the penance of sinners desires: kindly regard the frailty of our human condition. In your goodness vouchsafe to bless these ashes which we receive upon our heads in token of our lowliness, hoping to obtain your mercy. May we, who know that we are but ashes, and that because of our depravity will return to dust, obtain pardon for all our sins, and the good things promised to the penitent. Through Christ our Lord.
What brought these good people to church just after dawn was the hope that God will honor His promise, and fill us, at last, with good things. Fr. Mark and I went up and down the altar rail, imposing ashes upon the heads of young and old, rich and poor, healthy and sick. Some of the foreheads were smooth and supple, and some were gnarled and petrified. They will all certainly be dust before long, but we dare receive the ashes in hope of life beyond ashes. We make bold to look death steadily in the face, to speak to it as “sister death” which Christ our Lord has tamed, refashioning it as a doorway into eternal joy. How precious are the foreheads God’s people, their shining eyes, now downcast, but longing for eternal life!