Christ Will Clean Your Ashes

Christ Will Clean Your Ashes February 14, 2024

Well, it is that time of year again.  We had Advent as our Church New Year and soon after a different New Year. Now we enter yet another  time of year to restart.  A time to enhance or perhaps even try to fix our spiritual lives.  We can always use something to help us grow more deeply in love with our holy Triune God. 

It is a time for introspection, sacrifice, deeper prayer, deeper love of neighbor, or enemy,  repentance, or whatever else is needed in your spiritual life.  It is time for Lent for Catholics and other Christians.  It comes around every year and hopefully it is not a time for you to dwell on sad guilt but a time for love and forgiveness.  Yes, a time for real, holy love and hope.  A blessed Lent to you. Remember a good Lent brings a beautiful Easter. 

My favorite hymn for Ash Wednesday is the song “Ashes”, or what I find myself calling “We Rise Again From Ashes” written by Catholic song writer Tom Conry (b 1951) in 1978. If you do not know the words to the song I’m sure you are far from alone.  Here it is in its entirety or you to listen to.

Here is my brief reflection on the song.

I will reflect on the words.  To be more specific I will reflect on the words that touch my heart bringing me closer to prayer, sacrifice, and our loving relationship with God.  I will not be pulling it apart looking for a statement or two that questions theology.  I’m dwelling on Christ’s love and our need to turn to Him and love Him in spite of our imperfections.
So…. In my humble opinion this is what the song wants to tell us, or maybe just remind us.  Perhaps, as some people have, you will interpret the song differently and thus get more, or less from it. Maybe God wills each of us to comprehend it differently in order to help you advance in spiritual growth.

1. We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes,
an offering to you.

2. We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our vision wider view,
an offering of ashes,
an offering to you.

“We rise again from ashes” seems to mean rising to now do what good we should have done.  That means we make a change in our lives with the help of God and because we love God.  Creating our lives anew is about our ongoing deepening love.  We turn to God and are cleaned by Him.  We seek to do only and always His will.  Easier said than done of course.  When we offer our ashes we are coming to God in humility.  We are giving our sins to God and admitting them to Him and ourselves so He may cleanse us of our sins.  We do this because we desire change.
It seems to me the first two sections of the song fit well with the sacrament of reconciliation, a great part of Lent if it is not already a part of your common practice.
3. Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain,
the rain we’ll use for growing
to create the world anew
from an offering of ashes,
an offering to you.
The third section reminds me that we all suffer, as did Jesus.  It makes me think of the saying: “Without Crucifixion there can be no Resurrection.”
The verse in this section(number three) also talks about creating the world anew.  While we serve God, we are serving those in need.  We are making a difference in the world, with the help of God, and because we love God so very much, though He loves us more.

4. Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like himself.

Thanks be to the Son,
who saved us by his death.

Thanks be to the Spirit
who creates the world anew
from an offering of ashes,
an offering to you.

In the fourth section of the hymn we are reminded that our God is a Triune God.  We bless ourselves, indeed we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is easy to bless ourselves so often or quickly during prayer that we don’t think about what we are doing or saying.

Do I think about who indeed we are praying to?  Will I ask Him to clean my ashes and make me the holy person he wants all of his children  to be?

What changes am I going to make so that I can seek to do the will of God and grow ever more deeply in love with our creator and redeemer?



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