“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down,” goes the final line of Ring Around the Rosy, a popular nursery rhyme. How innocently we sung that while swinging around in a circle and falling down. But what does “ashes, ashes we all fall down” really mean? It’s about the Bubonic plague. The “ring around the rosy” being the plague’s first symptom on the skin, the “pocket full of posies” the flowers and herbs carried around superstitiously by doctors, and “ashes, ashes we all fall down” the certain deadly outcome.
We are all plagued by sin, and “ashes, ashes” we will certainly all die. Lent is the season for paying attention to those ashes and recognizing our frail sinful condition. It’s a time for repentance, turning away from those plaguing, nagging habits that lead to death and destruction. It’s a time for self-control, holding ourselves back from the usual pleasures we enjoy to focus on the seriousness of the human condition.
We all must go through Lent before we celebrate Easter. The resurrection holds no meaning without the sacrifice that comes before. If we wake up April 8, dress in our fanciest clothes, saunter to church early to sing a few hymns and watch the sunrise, we’ve missed the point. And to think that some people only go to church on Christmas and Easter. How can we celebrate life without first celebrating the death of sin?
Remember when Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven little loves little”? He said this after a sinful woman interrupted a dinner party and washed his feet with her tears and anointed him with oil. She understood his forgiveness and that fueled her love. The joy of Easter morning comes after the gruesome death. Our death, by substitution. Sin cost Jesus his life. Grace is not cheap.
What will fuel your love this Easter? Hopefully a season of meditating on your ashes.