REV PAUL CHAMBERLAIN: Ash Wednesday encourages us to be realistic about life

Rev Paul Chamberlain with his Ash Wednesday cross
Rev Paul Chamberlain with his Ash Wednesday cross
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The vicar of St Faith’s Church, Lee-on-the-Solent on the meaning of this important day

This week, a very unusual combination of events took place.

On Wednesday it was Valentine’s Day and it was also Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.

Because Lent and Easter are connected to the phases of the moon, this was the first time in many years that these two events were on the same day. The last time Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day were together was in 1934, 84 years ago.

This combination of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day got me thinking.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate romantic love – and it’s big business.

Whole aisles of shops are full of red and pink – cards, flowers, chocolates, and other gifts helping us tell that significant person how much we love them.

Ash Wednesday is also about love, but it has a very different focus. Ash Wednesday reminds Christians that we are only here on earth for a short time, and that sooner or later our lives here will end.

On Ash Wednesday, Christians receive the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and these words are said:

‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.’

That might sound a bit negative to you, but I don’t think it is. Although most of us don’t like to think about it, one day we shall all die. One day, everything that I think is important now, everything that seems so significant to me; all my relationships, my work, my hopes and dreams for the future, my whole life here, will cease. To dust I shall return…

Ash Wednesday encourages us to be realistic about life.

One day, even our closest romantic relationships will end, when we die.

But, Ash Wednesday reminds us, God is here – and he loves us.

We are not on our own. He will carry us through life here and into something new, if we walk with him.

So this Wednesday my wife gave me a card and some chocolates, as we celebrated Valentine’s Day.

And I also got a cross on my forehead, to remind me that one day all this will pass.

But I’m not sad – I’m grateful to God for everything I have, and especially for his love in my life.

St Faith’s Church is in Victoria Square, Lee-on-the-Solent.

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