"Remember You Are Dust"

On Monday in sharing thoughts about Sara Miles' new book City of God--Sara, who is today imposing ashes on the streets of the Mission District in San Francisco--I called the imposition of ashes a ritual of hallowing.

We just finished the Ash Wednesday service for our majors here at ACU. And I tell you what, it's a profound and moving experience to have your students--all these bright, talented young people--come up to you, one by one, so that you can impose the ashes.

You look into their eyes, make the sign of the cross on their forehead and say the ancient words.

"Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

You feel like your heart is about to explode. This ritual of hallowing fills you with a crazy mix of feelings.

Joy, awe, sadness, gratitude, love.

And it all intensifies when one of those young people, Caren, who transformed a basement classroom into a candlelit chapel, looks at you and says the words.

"Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

And here is the first selfie I ever took or posted online. This, the cross of ashes Caren made on my forehead.

Where are those words--"Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return."--on a college syllabus? Where is that lesson found in our learning outcomes?


But it's a lesson of the church.

And I feel so grateful that it's a lesson I shared today with my students.

And they with me.

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2 thoughts on “"Remember You Are Dust"”

  1. But what if we are star dust?
    Or put in another way what if our real body is quite literally the entire Cosmos?
    But isnt the Cosmos or all of creation a centerless and boundless play/dance of Conscious Light?

  2. What I love about this is less "You are dust" and more "and to dust you shall return." I love being given the permission to just die: you need leave no legacy, for there isn't a legacy you could leave which would make you any less dead. Having permission to just die, without your life having to matter, is really incredibly freeing. It makes me freer to live.

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