Why Ashes On the Forehead Should Change the Heart and Purify the Soul

On Ash Wednesday we receive ashes on our foreheads with the words “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reversers.” (Remember, Man, that you are dust, and into dust you will return).  How true these words are, every living man, woman, youth and child will die and return to dust and bones in the coffin.  ashwednesdaypainting

These word are taken right from the very beginning of the Bible coming from the mouth of God as punishment inflicted on Adam for having sinned by disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit.   “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19.

Prado Annunciation_Adam and Eve_detWe remember that “the Lord God formed man of the slime (dirt) of the earth“. Genesis 2:7 And Abraham admits right away, when talking with God, that “I am dust and ashes“. Genesis 18:27

When Achan took forbidden booty from the inhabitants of the promised land, Israel began to not be able to take over the towns.  So Josue “rent his garments, and fell flat on the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel: and they put dust upon their heads.” Josue 7:6.

After the Ark of the covenant had be captured by the Philistines, a messenger came to Silo to report it “with his closes rent, and head strewed with dust” (I Samuel 4: 12).

Job, in all humility answered the Lord: “Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6  And in Psalm 104:29 (103 in some Bibles) it says: “But if thou turnest away thy face, they shall be troubled: thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail and shall return to their dust.”

The famous conversion of the city of Ninive, from the preaching of Jonah, was shown by the King who “rose up out of his throne, and cast away his robe from him, and was clothed with sackcloth and sat in ashes.”

At the beginning of these forty days of Lent, we begin by fasting and praying.  We receive the ashes on the forehead to remind us also to think.   To actually use our brains to ponder about the Laws of God, His Love for Us, His sacrifice on the cross He offered for our sins and about our own sins that are destroying us and leading us to eternal death.  We need to seriously think about if we really want to be tortured forever in the fires of hell.

Then, once we have thought about these truths, we let them go down into our hearts where they can move us to change.  We beg God in this time of Lent to open our minds to His truth and soften our hearts to embrace it.  In prayer we beg God’s graces to change.

Most Sin begins with a thought.  All actions begin with a thought.  We think, I would like to see some pornography.  So at that moment, we fall down on our knees and pray for the grace to say no to the temptation and immediately begin to correct the thought that is leading us into sin.  Instead we need to fill our minds and hearts with holy thoughts about the miracles that come from prayer, the lives of the saints and our mother Mary.

Monaco-certosino-in-orazione-nella-sua-cellaWhen we take the words “thou art dust” seriously, it helps us be humble.  The word humble actually comes from dust (Humus or earth).
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 When we stay down close to earth, we are less likely to fall.  And if for some reason we may fall, it is way less down and easier to get up.  We quickly get up in great sorrow and go to confession with a firm resolution to never ever fall again.

Pride is what caused the devil to be damned forever.  In this lent, let us root out all forms of pride.  We do not know it all.  We are not smarter than God.  We are not smarter than the old traditional teachings of the Catholic Church.  We do need God.  We do need to change.  We do need the sacraments and other holy people to help us to get to heaven.   We are absolutely not perfect yet.
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Wolves (the devil and his demons) enjoys very much ravaging and eating sheep.  When a Catholic goes his own way of pride by himself, the wolves easily catch and eat the lone sheep.  But when the sheep humbly stay with the flock and obeys the Shepherd (Jesus), he is protected from his own demise (death).

Life is short.  Death is certain. Eternity is forever.  That is why we are so fortunate to be traditional Catholics and to have Jesus and His teachings to help us stay out of the hands of the devil and to keep us from being damned with him forever.  And we have each other to support us and remind us that no matter what the world, the pope, bishops, priests, religious and lay church teachers are saying, we are going to stick together and obey the Bible and the Church’s 2000 teachings.

“A person who governs his passions is the master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.”  St. Dominic