"...'From dust you came, and to dust you shall return. Turn from sin and be faithful to Christ.' The ashing ritual is a symbol of the fact that we are quite literally made of dust - billion-year-old carbon from burnt out stars, as Joni Mitchell sang in the 1970s.
Lent is in part about the recognition of our own humanity, but the words 'dust to dust' put us squarely in the same territory as a funeral service. They can seem a dour and punishing declaration of sinfulness, making it hard to see the overriding sense of redemption that the gospel should always carry. Acknowledging both the sinful nature of humanity and our own particular flaws may be essential if we are to escape the arrogance that makes the human heart leaden and ugly, but there's a fine line between that and an over-emphasis on sinfulness, which so easily transforms the lightness of the gospel into the straitjacket of religiosity. How can ashes be, in any sense of the word, redemptive and light?
From Giving it Up: Daily Readings from Ash Wednesday to Easter DayI think, though, that a lightness does emerge from the process of facing down our demons. When we look our mortality in the face, the inevitability of our own death asks of us, 'What are you going to do with the life you have?' ..."
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this extract posted previously on 13/02/2013