Dear Friends of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina,
On Ash Wednesday we go to the altar twice. We go first to receive the imposition of ashes and second to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Both of these actions name a reality and a hope.
Going forward to receive ashes marked on our foreheads is an imposition, even a startling one. We are told that we “are dust and to dust you shall return.” The truth is we are mortal, finite, and subject to all the chances and changes of what it is to be human. Our Prayer Book calls it this “transitory life.” We hear similar words uttered by God to Adam in Genesis. We hear them at every funeral. It is a statement not of curse, but of reality. We are dust.
To be dust is, however, also a sign of hope. To embrace this truth means that we have named who we are without sentiment and come to the awareness that we have no hope in and of ourselves. We are stripped of our nonsensical illusions about our own power and ability to control, and are taken back to the wilderness where we can rediscover our need of God’s grace and mercy. To acknowledge that we are dust can prepare in us a place for God.
Now we are hungry and thirsty. Now we long for something that can refresh us and make us new. Now we return to the altar to be fed with Christ’s very self offered for us in the Sacrament of Bread and Wine. The reality that gets named is that we come forward needy and incomplete. Even more importantly, however, we come forward to meet the ultimate reality, God, and our God reaches out to feed us and make us whole. We are made worthy in Christ in the very act of eating and drinking from what God offers us in Christ.
Participating in Eucharist is then also our hope. We meet Christ Risen and alive in us and among us. It reminds us of who we really are: the redeemed, loved and embraced people of God empowered to be Christ for the world. Once again you are invited by God through the Church to begin the Lenten journey. Walk with us and discover again your reality and even more, your hope.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.