Remember that You are Dust

This evening I went to an Ash Wednesday service at Hurley Church, one of my dad’s five churches. I didn’t take an #ashtag selfie because the cross didn’t show up particularly well, so you’ll just have to take my word for it! It was a beautiful service, even if I did start tearing up midway through and then not stop until the end (for which I blame a combination of ashing, the hymns and communion) – there were lots of elements that make me cry at the best of times let alone now.

Between today and yesterday’s Iron and Wine gig, there’s been a lot of focus on mortality lately. The line ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’ has been one of my favourites in liturgy for a while now, and it has a very different but very important resonance for me now.

It’s difficult for me sometimes to see my body as being ‘me’ so Ash Wednesday, and Lent in general, is a good time to focus on this. I have spent a lot of time disliking my body, either for the way it looks or the way it works (or doesn’t work as I expect it to, more accurately). Lent is a useful and very necessary reminder that these binaries don’t actually work, either in theory or in reality. Thinking in terms of being in a battle with our bodies, or of our bodies as against us, fighting us, is never something I’ve found particularly helpful (as I explained a little in an early blog post). I think Ash Wednesday adds yet another perspective to this, though. It serves as a reminder that life was breathed into us, and that is the most physical of acts – both life giving and life sustaining. I don’t know languages well enough to speak with any authority on what is meant in the original so I’ll leave that to people who know what they’re talking about! I think I need more than just a couple of hours to properly process everything from tonight’s service – but I have the whole of Lent, so that’s okay!

Dad’s sermon on this topic was excellent, though I may be biased! I’ll try to persuade him to post it or a version of it, and then share it so you can read it if you are interested. I’m not sure I can put what I want to say as articulately; it’s tempting to just steal his sermon and pretend it’s my blog post for today!

The song in this video is ‘Naked As We Came’ by Iron and Wine. I’ve posted the lyrics below because I think they’re very resonant, to me at least.

She says “wake up, it’s no use pretending”
I’ll keep stealing, breathing her.
Birds are leaving over autumn’s ending
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes ’round the yard.

She says “If I leave before you, darling
Don’t you waste me in the ground”
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes round the yard

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