“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
When the priest makes the sign of the cross, with ashes, on my forehead, I find these words, this reminder of my mortality, not morbid, but comforting. I am dust. I am earth. I came from the stuff of the earth and to the earth I shall one day return. I am made of the same elements as my fellow human beings, my fellow non-human beings, my fellow cats and trees and sunflowers and stars. I am connected to the Whole. I am earth, and fire, and water, and air, and spirit.
As I receive the Eucharist, the sign of the cross newly imprinted on my forehead, I feel my spirit remembering my connectedness to God, my sacred origin. The opening words of the Ash Wednesday prayer, “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made,” remind me that the feelings of self-hate I sometimes feel, those moments of self-denigration when I forget my origin in the Divine Beloved – those moments do not come from God. God hates nothing God has made.
As children of God we all have what the Quakers call “the divine spark” within us. We are all connected to God. We are all connected to God’s creation. We are all connected to each other.
Playlist for Ash Wednesday:
Harry Connick Jr.: Ash Wednesday (jazz instrumental)
Grateful Dead: Throwing Stones (“ashes ashes all fall down”)
Mumford & Sons: Dust Bowl Dance
The Low Anthem: I’ll Take Out Your Ashes
Matisyahu: On Nature
Rage Against the Machine: Ashes in the Fall
David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes
Steve Earle: Ashes to Ashes
Bruce Cockburn: Lord of the Starfields
Leonard Cohen: Anthem
Kansas: Dust in the Wind
The Byrds: Turn Turn Turn
Photo: Sunlight through stained glass window at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta