Beyond the buff Jesus: Ash Wednesday

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.

“From dust you were formed and to dust you shall return. From dust you were formed and to dust you shall return. From dust you were formed and to dust you shall return.”

The words are repeated over and over again as the minister makes the mark of the cross upon one’s forehead as one passes her on Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of the season of the church called Lent in which Christians remember Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, the crucifixion and, ultimately, the resurrection.

I am a liturgical nerd. I love the various liturgical seasons, the changing of the paraments and the knowledge of what is to come. I love knowing that green is ordinary time, red is Pentecost, purple is Lent and Advent and white is Easter. I love that I can know exactly what season it is when I walk into a church and see the color of the cloth.

However, I have not always been vocal about my love for the liturgical seasons of the church or my faith itself for that matter.

I have heard a lot of talk lately about the “college experience.” I can imagine what your definition of the phrase “college experience” may be. Perhaps it means staying up super late at night or going to parties. My college experience has been about embracing the nerdiness in myself, of learning how to be comfortable with the parts of myself that I have often tried to hide away. Lent is the season in which the happy, safe coverings are pulled away and all that is left is anxiety and sadness that comes with knowing that on Good Friday, Jesus is going to hang on that cross. My own hidden nature is thus uncovered as well in order to bring my focus onto what is truly important.

Lent is my favorite of all of the liturgical seasons. Often people will give something up or take something on. Last year, I gave up social media and, instead of looking at Facebook and Twitter first thing in the morning, I did a devotional. I have friends who have taken up running or trying new forms of prayer. There are so many different ideas of what could be done in order to further a relationship with God.

For me, though, my relationship with God is always deepened by the reminder that it was from dust that I was formed and to dust I shall return. I am nothing without God, because without God, where would be love?

The ultimate expression of God’s love for each of us was on that day that Jesus was hung on the cross. God’s love is there on days that it seems like there is no more love in this broken, sinful world. God’s love is there in grief, in anger and in fear. The reminder of this unconditional love is so visible on Ash Wednesday, on the day that the sign of the cross is lovingly made upon your head as you hear the powerful words: “From dust you were formed and to dust you shall return.”

By remembering that, I become unafraid to express my own love and enjoyment of Lent and embrace the liturgical nerd I am.

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