However, if I did, I wouldn’t sit idly when the procession toward the front began. I might feel weird, but I would definitely join in. I would let the priest use his ash-coated finger to trace the cross on my forehead. And I would walk through my day marked with it. I’d let it smudge and fade until my evening shower finished it off.
And the point would be?
It would be found in the words almost certainly spoken by the ash-writer as the cross took its place on my forehead: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” The heart of Lent is seen in dust and ashes–that we are creaturely mortal and morally culpable. Finite and sinful, destined to die. And the blending of my dust-skin with those dust-ashes would drive home a point…
If I am to live, it will only be through the eternal God’s redemption of my fading self. A realization like that drives one quite naturally to humility and repentance.
And at that point, one has arrived squarely at the season of Lent.