Ash Wednesday

“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” These were the softly spoken words of the female priest as she lightly drew the simple dark cross of ash on my forehead. This was the first time I had ever participated in an Ash Wednesday service, and I smiled at the floor as I walked back to my seat. The words of the priest echoed through my heart like the sound of singing in a cement stairwell. I did not feel anything overwhelming, but the words, like the sermon before it began to seep down through my soul to my feet, and made my them feel heavy. I could feel the pull of imaginary rootlets digging through the wood floor into the foundation of the church, the earth, the dust from which my body is made. I do not know about the resurrection of my body in some future paradise, about heaven; but I do know that my body resurrects, daily, minute by minute through the air, water and food that flows through me. Observing Lent, is not about giving up a marginally addictive substance or vice, it is the deep waiting before the blessed sacrament of spring, where the liturgy of Earth will perform itself again as it has over 4.5 billion years. Lent is the no-thing before the Great Flaring Forth of the universe 13.8 billion years ago. It is feeling speechless at the fact that ten thousand stars lived and died to forge the atoms that form my body so that I could watch a sunset, fall in love, or step into a church and sing praises back to the Process that meandered over eons before it said “Jason Brown.” Perhaps this is the purpose of ritual, to write our stories into our bodies and to knit those bodies into a blessed community.