The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn (Joel 2:13)

The sign of the Cross is traced on our foreheads with ash, and we begin our annual journey in preparation for the great celebration of the Cross. We are preparing once again to proclaim the Cross as our hope, and to encounter its mystery in all its aspects. We will sing ‘Hosanna!’ with the crowds, we will shout ‘Crucify him!’ We will trumpet forth the great ‘Alleluia’ to greet his Resurrection. But before that, we must be quiet.

When that Cross is traced on our heads, we are reminded that this Cross is the great representation of everything the gift of faith has given us. It is the mark of our freedom. So as we begin this journey, we are reminded: Repent, and believe in the Gospel. We are returning with broken hearts, with broken lives, as people in need of redemption. And our repentance is manifested in our special works of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Jesus reminds us that these acts have a real significance. They are an opportunity to turn our broken lives to the Love of God. We must be careful to resist the temptation of trumpeting our actions before the world so that others might see our good works. This only builds up our pride. When these actions are done in secret, they direct our beings to the love that is experienced in repentance.

We come with broken hearts; and when the journey is complete we experience the great joy of the Love that is ours in Christ. There will be plenty of reason for trumpeting at Easter.


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