Thursday, March 10, 2011

Earthy thoughts

Every year I find Ash Wednesday both exhausting and frustrating. Exhausting because the provision of two somewhat intense services completely drains me, and frustrating on account of those people, even church people, who do not take part, who stay away that day.

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

The traditional words at Mass, taken from the book of Genesis, which accompany the moment when the cross is traced in ash on the forehead are, so it is murmured, becoming too strong a sentiment for the 21st century person. Why? Because more and more we do not like to be reminded of our mortality. The young don’t believe in it; the middle–aged are too busy to think about it, and the elderly have far too many reminders already, thank you very much! But that is the wonderful power of Ash Wednesday. It’s message is more than a reminder; it’s subversive and counter-cultural, a statement that ought to be heard and assimilated by all, regardless of faith or lack of belief. We are dust, and to dust we shall return.

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