Last week I attended a conference in D.C, missing the Ash Wednesday service at our congregation in Chicago. Instead I attended one offered by the conference. The service was beautiful and well thought out. Some words were offered by Dallas Willard, but the only phrase I remember is when he said, “The Cross is the only way home.”
Of course Ash Wednesday is the day we are physically marked by the cross (on the forehead), as a sign that during Lent we are entering into a particular time of repentance of and purification from sin and temptation. So, at the end of the service we all went forward and receive the mark of the cross.
But about an hour later I noticed that everyone’s crosses had disappeared from their foreheads, mine included. “This is not how it is supposed to be,” I thought, “What kinda of cheap ashes did they use?” It seems that there was more oil than ashes, and that my skin absorbed everything. At first it felt like everything was invalidated, but as I reflected more it seems that this is really what Lent is meant to be, a time where the Cross of Christ is fully absorbed into our bodies and our lives that it is not not seen as a visible sign, but as our every way of living.
My hope and prayer for myself and you is that the Cross would be absorbed into us, that we could say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no long I who live by Christ who lives in me.”