Remember that you are dust

"We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord."

Today is Ash Wednesday.  The beginning of the Lenten season - the forty days of fasting, anticipation, and prayer leading up to Easter.  Traditionally, the palm fronds from the previous year are burned and the ashes are smeared across the forehead in the form of a cross, with these words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

I am incredibly humbled by these words.  At today's Ash Wednesday meditation, I knelt at the invitation to a Holy Lent - moved to a position of surrender and weakness.  I rose to receive the blessing and ashes, commencing the season's journey.  Together we prayed the psalm, but before leaving the space, the leader of the meditation encouraged us to take a moment of silence - to rest in the significance of the day and to breathe in the air around us.

In the quiet of the church, I inhaled the spirit and sighed out everything I had brought with me from the street, grieved by what I have done and what I have left undone.  
Have mercy on us, Lord.

Going out into the world with this cross of ashes on my forehead - the sacred and the secular converged.  I carried out with me this symbol of repentance, mercy, and remarkable hope - like an emblem of God's promise.

I am reminded of a lovely Lenten poem from writer Jane Kenyon, with imagery both startling and expectant:

Looking at Stars
The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood splattered
the hem of his mother's robe.


  1. Hey Jessica - I hope you're well. Nice post - I'm a huge fan of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten period. I'm teaching the book of Lamentations at my church over the course of the Lenten period as we build up to Easter.

  2. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

    It was good to me in this morning...