Ash Wednesday – Remember you are dust
We have two options of the words to use when we impose ashes on Ash Wednesday: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.” I’ve always preferred the first one, and not just because it is shorter (which can make a little difference if you say it a few hundred times) but that it also made more sense to me about what I was doing in Lent, trying to repent for my sins (so I guess I need to recognize them first) and then believing in the Gospel, so hopefully also then showing it by seeing the ways to live it out in my life. But this year I went with the longer version, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
One reason why I avoided this one normally is because it seems to be talking about mortality and focusing just on our physical life and the limited nature of it, kind of a strange thing to do during Lent. But instead this year I am going to let it remind me of two different things, our creation and our immortality. Our creation in that I am dust. God created us from dust, from the earth. Without God we would still just be dust on the earth. Hopefully this is a manner that can keep me reminded that all that I have, I owe to God, my creator. God is the creator and I am the createe, or creature, a good reminder when we can start to think too much of ourselves sometimes.
Now the second part isn’t quite as obvious, at least not for me, that the fact that we will return to dust is a reminder of our immortality. Recognizing how focused we can become in our lives on our physical selves, on our physical lives, that we can forget that we are meant for more than this, that we were created as more than this, that we are spiritual people with spiritual bodies that are immortal. We need to feed that spiritual body too, to take care of it, to worry about the life that is going to last at least as much as we do about the life that will be passing. Lent is a preparation for Easter, not Good Friday. Like Christ we will endure suffering and pains in this life and eventually are meant to leave our mortal bodies to live in our glorified bodies.
As we begin Lent, may we take the time to recognize the gifts we have now, to help prepare for the ultimate gift of heaven.