Tonight Annie looked me in the eyes, caressed my forehead, and reminded me that I will crumble away to dust someday. I smiled a little and was sad a little, then sat right down in my pew and was sad that I wouldn't have a moment of reflection after the hymn and grumpy that I can't sing along without hymnals anymore like I could at mass, and naturally, naturally was just missing the point. Christmas is the titular holiday for us in the public eye, but Lent and Easter are really the big show. I talked with another parishoner and we decided these themes of failure and death, forgiveness and resurection have a special pull for us and a lot of Christians, partly because the season is intentionally introspective and partly because Hallmark hasn't tried to foist "Remember you are dust, buster!" greeting cards on us yet. Lent is a time in the church year when we're invited to contemplate grief and sadness and repentence, but not to wallow. Let's abstain from wallowing, Sean, hmm?
Anyway, David's sermon was really spot on, but as often happens, one line in particular set my mind wandering. Speaking of ash as symbol of ruin and destruction, he said something like,
In the English language, we have a phrase, “Where there's smoke, there is fire.” But it would also be true to say, “Where there's ash, there was fire.”
I'd been thinking about the Landry/Kinghorn song Abba! Father (emphasis in original) and how those earthen vessels are related to our creation from and destiny as ash, clay, earth. The imposition comes with the reminder, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” My attention was drawn to what must be in between -- the fire. Ash is constant, but ash cannot fuel fire; life is a divine fire perpetuated by God. The reminder of my mortality became also a reminder of my miraculous existence.