This is a portion of a post from Ash Wednesday 2008 that I decided to re-post this morning. It's something that has never left me and that I like to think about when I bless people with the gift of ashes as I will this evening at our service.
Post from Ash Wednesday 2008
.....I had the privilege of being the one to "impose" the ashes as the prayer book says. I had to go look the word impose up to see if there was something I was missing here, but all the definitions had the same sense of the word that I am familiar with, that of bringing something on someone with force or at the very least authority, pushing it at them. I did not feel that! I felt instead that I was giving them a splendid gift. The opportunity to remember by word and symbol the fragile and brief nature of this earthly life. How precious it and we are before God. And how God holds us in that life...and that we can indeed trust God to do that.
As I spoke each person's name and said those sacred, sacred words, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return," I kept thinking about something that was said in our prayer workshop on Sunday, that essentially the "dust" that we are is the stuff of the universe, the same matter as supernovas and stars, glaciers and canyons, the very ground we stand on and air we breathe...the stuff, could it be....of God? "Remember that you are of God, and to God you will return." It was all I could do to hold back the tears as I looked into each face in this wonderful quirky bunch and traced on their heads a cross of ash to carry with them into the night as a reminder of how very much they are loved.