The Jewish Hasidic tradition teaches that everyone should have two pockets in their coats with two slips of paper.
One slip says: “I am only dust and ashes.”
The other “For me the whole universe was created.”
Sometimes we need to remember that first slip of paper, as we have done and will do tonight as we come to be marked with the ashes of repentance, and sometimes we also need to remember the second – to remember that we have been adopted by God in Christ – that through him God forgives us – and calls us his “Beloved” – everything has been made out of love for us.
“I am only dust and ashes” These ashes are a reminder of who we are. The Bible tells us that we came from the dust and to the dust we shall return. The first human was formed out of the dust of the earth by God and then God breathed life into that dust. That is a powerful image. One that is meant to remind us that without the breath or Spirit of God moving in us, we are just like these ashes: lifeless – worthless.These ashes are also a sign of repentance. They are a way of showing on the outside what is happening on the inside. We are truly sorry for our sins. Lent is a time when we are called to repent and change our ways.
“For me the whole universe was created”The mark of the cross is a mark of ownership. These ashes tonight remind us that we are Christ’s – that he died so that we might live.It is also significant that we use palm branches to make these ashes. The palms are a symbol of victory. By making the ashes from the palms of Palm Sunday we are reminded, if we truly repent, that Christ will be victorious in us.