I needed it this year perhaps more than some years. This liturgy suited me today. I needed the reminder of my creatureliness, my smallness in this world and in the cosmos. And my smallness even in my community.
This year, it was hard to hear – but in a healthy way – “Remember thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.” I was sitting fairly far back in the nave. By the time I stood to move to the altar for the imposition of ashes, I had heard my priest say it dozens of times to people kneeling at the altar. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” My friends, it hammered me. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Kneeling in my place, waiting to move to the rail. Hearing my priest say it again and again, to person after person. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I was strangely happy to kneel and recite Psalm 51 and the Litany of Penance. Tears flowed. No big surprise there. They always do on this day in which we come starkly face to face with our faults, our failings … our sin.
What a blessing it was, then, to go through the Ash Wednesday liturgy, with all its lamentations … and then to Eucharistic Prayer A, where the priest says, “Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself ….” And to remember the opening words of the Ash Wednesday liturgy: "Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made ...."
What a contrast between our confessions of sinfulness and the reminders of God's infinite love for us. I need to be mindful of my sins. But I am also assured of God's love for me and for all God has created.
I’m still reeling with that.
I am grateful that we have 40 days of Lent. Perhaps I can ponder that conflict. We sin in all manner of ways, large and small. And yet we are beloved children of God. I can’t wrap my mind around that love on this Ash Wednesday.