"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (from Psalm 51)
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. It is a time of burning, of letting go, of gathering the ashes. It is a time to remember that we are, in our essence, ashes: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust". For all of our aspirations, all of our pride, all of our power, all of our worth...we are dust. Ash Wednesday reminds us of that.
Lent is a time for letting go of the things that we use to surround our vulnerabilty, and to let ourselves be fully, simply human. Lent is a time for laying bare our broken spirits, for it is in our broken spirits that God works.
As new life grows in ashes, so does light enter the cracks of our spirits. But I'm getting ahead of ourselves. Today is but the first day - a 'burning off' to prepare for the journey. Forty days of travel with Jesus. The jouney ends at the cross...the resurrection is a long, long way off.
For now we are ashes.