Ash Wednesday is today and marks the beginning of the Lenten season which is a season of preparation for the remembrance of passion week and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. A traditional text often quoted as ashes are imposed on the foreheads of those coming forward at Ash Wednesday services is from Genesis 3:19 which reads, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This sonnet remembers the first time I imposed ashes during an Ash Wednesday service. It was a moving service for me. The intimacy of touching someone on their forehead, looking them in the eye, and telling them they are going to return to the dust from which they were formed (that is, to die) was a profound pastoral moment.
You Are Dust
“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.
“You are dust”, words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.
“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.
© Randall Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.