A parishioner wrote to Fr. Joseph and me and asked how we personally observe Ash Wednesday. Here is what I wrote back:
One thing I always do is take off from work. I try to use the day as a day of reflection. The words that are traditionally used when ashes are placed on Christians' heads are "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return", and it is a day to reflect on our mortality, and where our life is going, in the knowledge that, sooner or later, it is going to end. It is easy to become so busy that we don't take the time to stop and think about the larger picture in our life (and being clergy, it is easy for me to even become too busy with church to do this!) , and in general and in particular, gives us that opportunity to do that.
Often, funerals are a time when people, in the shock of grief, and realization that since life is short, they are not necessarily living as they wish they were. It might be helpful to think of as our own "funeral", where we come face to face with our mortality, mourn it, and come to terms with how it will affect our living. Of course, baptism is our "dying with Christ so that we might rise with Christ", and was traditionally the time of preparation for baptism, ending in the Three Days when we celebrate Christ's death and resurrection. So as we contemplate our deaths , we also look forward to the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ at , which is a promise of our own resurrection.