The Echo of Ashes

“Remember you are dust
and to dust you shall return.”

the large brown bowl
rests on a purple cloth
its roundness holding ashes
freshly burned
black and ready for wearing.

blackened thumbs
press the ancient sign
upon the waiting foreheads.

I hear the message repeated
until it haunts and hunts me down:
remember, remember, remember
you are dust, dust, only dust
someday only dust will remain.

the echo of the Lent stained ashes
speaks the truth of my humanity:
the humbleness of my beginning,
the simplicity of my departure.

A few wise words
echoing through Ash Wednesday
urge me to deeper things:
renewed dedication,
constant compassion
and mindful awareness.

I leave marvelling
at how simple and sublime
is this envelope of the soul,
which one day returns
to dust, dust, only dust.

Joyce Rupp, Out of the Ordinary: Prayers, Poems and Reflections for Every Season, Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010.

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