Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Benedict XVI, pope from 2005 to 2013
General Audience of 17/02/2010 (trans. © copyright Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
The “favourable moment” (2Cor 6,2) of grace in Lent also reveals its spiritual significance to us in the ancient formula: "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return" which the priest says as he places a little ash on our foreheads. Thus we are referred back to the dawn of human history when the Lord told Adam, after the original sin: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen 3,19; 2,7)...
Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but dust is precious in God's eyes because God created man, destining him to immortality. Hence the Liturgical formula... finds the fullness of its meaning in reference to the new Adam, Christ. The Lord Jesus also chose freely to share with every human being the destiny of weakness, in particular through his death on the Cross; but this very death, the culmination of his love for the Father and for humanity, was the way to the glorious Resurrection, through which Christ became a source of grace, given to all who believe in him, who are made to share in divine life itself.
This life that will have no end has already begun in the earthly phase of our existence but it will be brought to completion after "the resurrection of the flesh". The little action of the imposition of ashes reveals to us the unique riches of its meaning. It is an invitation to spend the Lenten Season as a more conscious and intense immersion in Christ's Paschal Mystery in his death and Resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity, which is born from the Eucharist in which it also finds its fulfilment. With the imposition of ashes we renew our commitment to following Jesus, to letting ourselves be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcoming evil and to doing good, in order to make our former self, linked to sin die and to give birth to our "new nature" (Eph 4,22f.), transformed by God's grace.
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