Feeling the moist dirt
look for the sun
with holy eyes
take a deep breath
You belong here.
Looking at the altar draped in purple cloth and candlelight, I noticed two bowls, both of earthen tones. It was Ash Wednesday so one likely would hold the ashes that would be used to trace a cross of two intersecting lines on our foreheads. What was in the other? Because I have placed ashes on many foreheads over time, I know for a fact that you need very little to create this mark that begins the journey of Lent. It would be rare to need another such large container.
As the person who was to offer reflection on both scripture and intention for this season came to speak, I noticed her shirt, more like a smock, was covered with planets and constellations. I smiled. This Sister of St. Joseph had a message to give and she planned to illustrate it not only with words but with her very clothing. After pointing to the small bowl that held the ashes she moved toward the larger one and allowed her fingers to sift dirt in a tiny stream through the air and back into the bowl. She spoke of this dirt as holding the bones of dinosaurs, plants, minerals, stardust and even other humans who have gone before. She lifted a small amount of the dirt once again to allow the enormity of that to sink in. “From dust we have come and to dust we will return.” This season which can seem sometimes dour and dreary begins with these words…words we don’t much like to think about.
“These days of Lent are a call to life.” she said. The life that comes from all the ways we are beings of earth, soil, dirt, that place that brings life with the cycling of winter to spring. It was not your usual Ash Wednesday message. I can imagine it is not the message she most likely heard over her years in the church. But as she reminded us of this call to life that guides us during these days, she reached just a little further into the soil and pulled up a living, green shoot of a plant. It was the work of an excellent teacher and smiles broke out…even on Ash Wednesday. Her words helped us remember who we are and why we are here…creatures born of Earth and called to live life fully, wholly, holy.
With only one week of Lent under our belts, the days of winter are changing and promising a spring that will surprise us with green and color buried beneath snow that seems to have been here forever. But the Sun is high and strong and has plans for executing its power on even the tallest of snow drifts. The call toward life cannot be contained. It is good to be reminded. By the presence of soil, dirt, dust, ashes. From which we came…and to which we will one day return.
In the meantime, it is about life.