Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Lorenzo Albacete's reflection on Ash Wednesday:

Every year the Church celebrates the season of Lent. It begins on Ash Wednesday with the traditional, sobering reminder, “Remember Man that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And just in case we forget, the Church sprinkles ashes over us, reminiscent of the ashes that we will become. Now, I am aware that cultural prejudices have led the Church to allow other versions of the reminder, lest we continue to sink into the depression lurking in the mind of each citizen of our psychologically haunted society, but I am a Hispanic Catholic, and we don't like those other formulas. Ash Wednesday is one of those few days all of us feel like going to Church, and if we do go, we expect the real thing, the reminder of death, and not some sort of watered down inspiration to live better lives. We want to be able to say what is a typical expression in our language: No somos nada. Actually, the allowed substitute formula, "repent and believe in the gospel," means the same thing, because Christian repentance is a real dying with Christ, and faith the beginning of a totally new existence, but those words have been "deprived of their meaning," as Walker Percy said. They have been evacuated of their full meaning, devalued as currency for communication, they now mean much less. It is hard, though, to devalue the words, “Remember, Man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And, in any case, there are those ashes to make it all quite concrete.

in Self-Evident Truths: Catholic Perspectives on American Law


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