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Blessing the Dust – A Blessing for Ash Wednesday (by Jan Richardson)

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial –

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace
© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com. Blog Link


An absolutely beautiful poem for Ash Wednesday.  Have you ever had times you’ve felt like dust?  Today at the hospital I anointed many people with ashes.  It’s a powerful experience to look in another eyes saying, “Remember you are dust and to the dust you will return.”  Put’s life in perspective doesn’t it?  But it’s a freeing life giving perspective.  I don’t think that Lent has to be all sadness and gloom.  As she says, we are not marked for sorrow and shame or false humility but for the realization of what the Creator can do with dust.  How magnificent – “Made a little lower than the angels” as the Psalm says.  To remember who God is, who we are and how even though dust, we are worthy and loved.

Another thought…

Ash Wednesday also reminds us of our mortality, of course.  How could we forget that?  But we do a pretty good job of convincing ourselves that we’ll live forever and driving out the thought in our day to day lives that our time here is limited and that none of us are making it out of here alive.  So the latin expression, Momento Mori – “Remember that you will die” is helpful for living our lives well. To keep death daily before our eyes as it says in the Rule of St. Benedict is to keep constantly before us the gift and preciousness of life.  Or as it says in Scripture, “I’d rather spend a day in the house of mourning than feasting” in order to remember what’s truly important. (Ecc. 7:2)