Ex 13:16 “This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the powerof the LORD's mighty hand brought us out of Egypt."

Eph 1:3 “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”

Rev 7:3 "Don't harm the land, the sea, or the trees until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads."

Rev 13:16 “He required everyone--small and great, rich and poor, free and slave--to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead.” [NIV]

My friend Emily asked, “What did you feel when they put ashes on your forehead? Does it seem like God is marking you, as we’ve been studying in the book of Revelations?”

Well. There’s a good question. What do I feel at this point in the Ash Wednesday service, besides self-conscious and vulnerable, walking up to the front of the sanctuary, with a person of the cloth so close, touching my face, looking into my eyes.

“You are dust and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:19)

My mortality noted, I feel a humble pause. “Amen,” I usually assent.

My friend, meanwhile, shared some of what she was feeling as the pastor “marked” an ashen cross on her forehead this year: her first encounter with this tradition.

“I know they say repentance and all that, but I keep thinking this is like Jesus marking and claiming ME for him.” But felt like Jesus saying, I AM HIS, and HIS ALONE...and that I also am loved and a daughter of God, and he has done everything for me, given up his life, etc., etc. I just felt like I was being claimed and marked.”

Previous to her mentioning this to me, Ash Wednesday has been a private, usually somber event for me, one person in the midst of the congregation, preparing myself for the solemnity of the forty days. By sharing her experience and posing the question to me, “How did you feel then?” my friend invites me to look up: to deepen my faith walk, inspired by another’s moment with God.

Thank you, Emily.


 ©By Joan O'Connell - February 2016Used with permission.