Remember

“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

ashes

photo credit: MTSOfan at Flickr

This flesh, this body of mine, is mortal. It cannot last. Nobody can. Everything living on earth will die someday. Must die.

And, yes, it’s sad.

Our earthly lives are temporary. All the good things that we know… the taste of ice cream, the smell of roses, the sound of music, the feel of sunlight, warm on the skin… the sight of a loved one’s face… the embrace of our parents, the smiles of friends, the laughter of children… all are temporary. All taking shape and form from out of the dust – and all returning to the dust, inevitably.

It is mournful, sorrowful, but… it’s life. The ebb and flow of the tides, the spinning of the planet, the spinning of the years of our lives so quickly, relentlessly. We want to hold on, hold still, keep life as it is, no aging, no dying. But we can’t. We must truly live.

Flowers, and mosses, and trees do not seem to bemoan the shortness of life. They do not become sad or sullen, remorseful or angry with the dropping of petals or browning of green. Cats do not brood over skulls and worms are not anxious about their impending demise. Grumpy though felines may look at times and wriggling as worms can be, flora and fauna do not think about how often they think about death. They do not distract themselves from the very concept of mortality or make elaborate plans in a futile attempt to stave off fatality.

We do that. Humans do that.

We think and we feel and we think about our feelings. We seem to either obsess too much about death or else make ourselves forget about it entirely. Of course, we can never forget about it entirely because death is always there: the bouquet of flowers on the table, the rotting lettuce in the refrigerator, the funeral procession on the highway, the phone call with the shocking news…

Every life ends in death.

And yet…

Beyond Death – True Life

Not natural only are we, like the other creatures of earth, but also supernatural, transcending the limits of the material, of time and of space. Here and now, we live in the wonder and beauty of our natural home, but we must remember that this home is temporary, finite. All forms and shapes return to the stardust from which they came and our souls, which are spiritual, return to the source from which they came. We came from a state of eternal love and to that eternal state we are called to return. The animating principle of our lives, our souls, are of God.[1]

Truthfully, we are always with God and God with us – we are always in God’s love. But, we separate ourselves from this truth when we sin, when we choose to be other than what God created us to be. When we choose not to be God-centered, living in and tending to the goodness of God’s Creation in love, but rather, self-centered, using God’s gifts for our own finite pleasures at the exclusion of others, we sin. We do not truly live when we choose greed over generosity, pride over humility, resentment over forgiveness, for then we do not choose love, we do not choose God. We choose the fleeting selfish feelings of the flesh, the finite and not the infinite. These are our sins. If we truly love, then we repent. If we truly love, then we are most truly sorrowful and mournful for our sins, the daily deaths of love.

And we will remember…

“You are dust and unto dust you shall return”…

Why did millions of people across the world mark their heads with ashes last Wednesday with these words spoken over them, spoken right to them? Why will they, and I, now strive to spend 40 days in penance and sacrifice? Why… except to remember….

We must remember that we are dust so that we do not forget what brought us to life. What sent that spark of life to live in a tiny cell that would multiply and grow, forming and shaping our bodies, our human lives here on earth? What gave us, not only brains, but also minds, to not only think, but to also think about thinking? What created the sun and the moon, the mosses and the butterflies, the cats and the fish and the beauty of earth? Who gave us these and the gifts of music and familial love? Who gives us human hearts so that we may love and be loved eternally?

Our bodies are sacred and made to choose good, to choose God. But, from the beginning, we have gone against the sanctity of our bodies and not chosen God – this is Original Sin and it means that we live in the separation of our own making. With the reminder in ashes imposed upon us, we are recalling the Fall of humankind, the great divorce that brought with it this inherited consequence: “In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken; for dust you are and unto dust you shall return”[2].

Is this our end, then, the dust of the ground? No. Because God truly loves us, He does not want us forever separated from Him. God wills to save us and sends us a Redeemer – His Son, God-Incarnate, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”[3]

Christ will save us from the ashes. But, first, we must remember the ashes. We must remember that we are dust and unto dust we shall return – but for the Salvation of God.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] Genesis 2:7

[2] Gen 3:17-19

[3] John 3:16

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