The Cross is our Way Home: Ash Wednesday

By: Geoffrey Holsclaw

The Way Home

A couple years ago I attended a pastors conference that ran through Ash Wednesday. Thankfully the conference offered an Ash Wednesday service, and lucky for me, they had Dallas Willard presiding over it. The service was beautiful and moving, reminding us that outside of the Living Word we drift toward death, for “from dust we were made, and to dust we return” (Gen. 3:19).

“The Cross is the only way home.” This was the statement that Dallas Willard made that really stuck with me. In a broken and fallen world where we are all looking for a way home, a way of reconciliation and return to the Father’s Family, the only way home is the way of the cross.

At the end of the service we went forward to receive the mark of the cross on our foreheads, physically marking our entrance into the Lenten time of repentance of and purification from sin and temptation.


Absorbing the Cross

But about an hour later I noticed everyone’s cross had disappeared from their foreheads, mine included.  “This is not how it is supposed to be,” I thought, “What kind of cheap ashes did they use?”  It seems there was more oil than ashes in the mixture, and my skin absorbed everything.

I felt like the service and the sign were invalidated. The crosses were gone, no longer witnessing to our entrance into Lent.

But as I reflected on what happened it seemed that perhaps absorbing the cross is really what Lent is for. Lent is a time where the Cross of Christ is to so fully absorb into our bodies, our thoughts, our lives that the Cross is not merely a visible sign on our foreheads, but a sign seen through every act of living in every relationship we have, for the Cross is the only way home.

My hope and prayer is that the Cross would be absorbed into all of us, that we could say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). This is the case for Paul so much that he can hope that “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:20-21)

In remembrance of the 21 Coptic Christians who witnesses to Jesus with their lives, will we be “People of the Cross”? Will we embrace the cross of Christ as our only way home?

Kyrie Eleison; Christ, have mercy; Kyrie Eleison



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February 18, 2015

Geoffrey Holsclaw

Affiliate Professor of Theology, and Director of the Master of Arts in Theology and Mission Program

ABOUT Geoffrey

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