Today the church holds a somber fast traditionally known as Ash Wednesday which dates back to the 11th Century.
In a number of places in the Hebrew scriptures ashes were associated with penance and remorse. The books of Jonah, Amos, and Daniel all note the practice of heaping ashes upon your head as a outward display of how guilt and penitence feel inside.
As the church year begins to ponder the death of the Christ in anticipation for resurrection, a more introspective, prayerful, and yes, honest tone is kept. Ash Wednesday is the start of that long road to Calvary.
While some might consider the practice to be sad or even scary (after all, who likes considering their mortality?!), the wise mystics of all faiths remind us that we must ever keep death before our eyes if we are to truly live.
You cannot outrun mortality, Beloved.
You cannot out-diet, out-exercise, out-supplement, out-buy, or out-smart the quiet, pervasive truth that all creation is indeed, dust at our core (beautiful stardust, to be exact), and we will all one day return to that dust.
There is no out.
And yet, as is true with all paradox, there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with embracing this hard truth. Being Wonder Woman and Superman for too long weighs on us all, and we’re really not meant to fly anyway.
We’re meant to walk, which means we stumble like all walking beings do from time to time. The reality of our imperfection is, too, a gift of grace.
Plus, God loves things made out of dust.
Today we remember that.