Dust to Dust

Ash Wednesday – 2013

Dust to dust

I have just discovered a writer – William Stringfellow. He was quoted in another book and I was so impressed that I bought one of his books immediately. In A Simplicity of Faith, Stringfellow reflects on the death of his close friend Anthony Towne – a poet. Anthony died suddenly at age 51. What is interesting is that Stringfellow makes the claim that despite the suddenness, neither he nor Towne were caught by surprise by his death.

He meant by this that he and Towne had discussed death – not in a morbid way – and had come to see death as an essential part of life. By this he meant that they had come to see death as an essential part of life. Death was not something to be feared, but neither was it to be glorified. It simply was. All living things die.

Understanding that we are to die helps us to live – knowing that death awaits us all helps us not to take ourselves too seriously, to understand our insignificance in the wider scheme of things, to value this life and to make the most of it.

Today as we receive the ashes we are reminded that we are dust and will return to dust. The intention of the ritual is not to make us feel worthless, but to understand our complete dependence on God, to understand that without God we are nothing.

Throughout Lent, our goal is to develop our relationship with God, to more properly understand our place in the scheme of things and to humbly ask God transform us so that we might more truly become the people God calls us to be.


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