"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:19
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust... yesterday we indulged in the delights of cinnamon rolls and King cake for Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday; I hadn't ever heard of Shrove Tuesday until this morning while I was having breakfast with my friend Lydia - but all three celebrations essentially do the same thing - indulge in something delightful before the Lenten season of fasting.
Today, on Ash Wednesday, many of us will or already have received the mark of the cross on our foreheads, and the ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:
- "Ashes remind us of God's condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam, "Dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).
- Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently in the absence of soap. On Ash Wednesday ashes are a penitential substitute for water as a reminder of our baptism.
- Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried: "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
- Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God." From the ELCA website.
On my way home from breakfast I began reflecting on this day, and honestly, I hadn't really thought about blogging about it. But Lydia asked me what I was going to write about I realized that I did have some thoughts that I would love to write down, mostly for me, but I'm willing to share with you who are willing to listen.
Firstly, I was thinking about dust. Not dust in the sense of what you have to wipe up off your dressers once a week when you clean the house, but the constant dusting of flour that has beset my kitchen. There is always flour on my counters, flour on my canisters, flour in the coffee mugs hanging nearby, flour on the stove, on the tea kettle, on the floor, and usually on me. You see, I am a VERY clean person, and I try to keep my home spotless, but this flour is not something I think I can tame.
Therefore, secondly, I began wondering about dirt. And this time I mean dirt in exactly the sense you are thinking of - the brown, earthy stuff that gets into the cracks of our shoes that we drag into our homes and also, the dirt in the cracks of my carrots. Or the dirt on the skins of my potatoes. The dirt, or should I say soil, that lives and gives nutrients and sustenance to our foods and forests, that sustains us and all creation. Yet so much of our food, or "food like substances," are sealed and wrapped in plastic and resemble little of the organism that came from the dirt.
I guess what I'm getting at is this: a constant dusting of flour in the kitchen and dirt on my produce is OK; it's a reminder to me of what I am, human, and who I am; a member of earth's ecological community, responsible for caring for the earth, and a child of God.
Many people "give up" something for Lent - beer, sweets, Facebook, or some other vice - as a modern version of fasting. I usually participate in the practice in some form or another. For example, a couple years ago Ross and I gave up going out to eat. I usually try to make it more of a giving up something I'm not doing to somehow improve; for example, in college I gave up not running. This year, I'm going to "give up" buying something that I can make from scratch. I am going to find one new thing a week to "give up" buying and make it instead, and post about in on Fridays.
On the chopping blocks, in no particular order, and subject to change:
2. Granola bars
3. Nutella (a chocolate hazelnut spread)
4. Stock for soup
5. Pasta sauce