This year, with the beginning of this month of March, comes the beginning of the great season of Lent, when we prepare ourselves to journey with Christ to – and through – his death.
Ash Wednesday is so called because we start this season by reminding ourselves that we are but dust and ashes. During our two services we have receive the mark of the cross on our forehead, made from the ash of last years’ palm crosses, and as the ash is placed we hear the words: “Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you will return”. It is a stark reminder of our mortality and echoes words from psalm 90 often used at funerals: ‘’From everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust and say ‘turn back you mortals’.” There’s also a link to the second creation myth in Genesis, when God forms a man from the dust of the ground and breathes into its nostrils to make it come alive.
Science also says we are made of dust: of stardust, for the elements needed for life are only formed in the centre of stars. When these stars burn out, because they run out of fuel, new stars and planets are formed from the dust they leave behind – planets that now have the elements needed for us to evolve. We are stardust.
However you choose to understand it: we are made of dust and to dust we will return. It is often said that Christians are fantasists who try and avoid the reality of death. I disagree. On Ash Wednesday we basically turn to each other and say “You are going to die.”
We spend much of our time pretending it’s not going to happen – and to some extent that’s logical – after all, we have lives to get on with! But we should not forget death altogether: trying to do so can make us greedy and grasping, perhaps in an effort to avoid the loss of everything that death represents.
But something that thinking about death does for me is to make me realise my utter dependence on God. When St. Paul says that in this life we can only ‘see but in a mirror dimly’, he is right – we just do not know what will come after death. But we do know it is inevitable and only when we see God ‘face to face’ (as St Paul goes on to say) will we know the whole truth.
It is in accepting our mortality that we are set free to fully live: to appreciate this one life on Earth that we are given – and to resolve to live it fully to its end.
Of course, at the end of Lent we will come to Easter. But that’s a story for another day!
I wish you a holy and life-filled Lent,
 Genesis ch2 v.4-24; the first creation myth is Genesis Ch1 v.1 – ch2.3
 1 Corinthians ch13 v12 ‘