Savior, when in dust to Thee
Low we bow the adoring knee;
When, repentant, to the skies
Scarce we lift our weeping eyes;
O, by all Thy pains and woe
Suffered once for us below,
Bending from Thy throne on high,
Hear our penitential cry!
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”
Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday. Some might think that “celebrate” is the wrong word for the occasion. As we attend services today, we trade “Alleluia” for “Lord, have mercy.” We trade feasts for fasting. We don ashes on our foreheads and mourn our sinful state. So, how can this be a celebration? After all, this is a penitential season filled with lamentations and grief. It’s a time where we grieve the sinful state of our flesh, the death that sin brings, and the fact that our Savior had to become man and bear our sins so that we might be saved eternally.
Yet we will not remain in our state of grief forever. Because of Christ we now have hope. In His bitter suffering and death, we now have the hope of salvation which cannot be taken away from us. The ashes of this day are made in the sign of the cross, which you also received in Holy Baptism. That washing of water and the Word has cleansed us of the perishable dust from which man was brought forth and has renewed us by Christ’s imperishable life as fully man and fully God. So, as we mourn and make our pleas with God for redemption, we know that our prayer has been heard in Christ.
Let us pray: Lord God, as we don the ashes of our sin in this penitential season, have mercy on us and guide our focus to the cross of Christ where our sins were crucified once and for all. Amen.
(Garrett Buvinghausen, Sem. IV)