On a recent trip to India, which was fascinating and at the same time challenging, I could not help but notice all of the pollution. You could smell it, you could breathe it, and at times you could even taste it. There were lots of things in the air, including dust. It gave me pause to think about a ritual I do every time I commit a person into the ground and into their final resting place. I begin what I say with the words: “We commit this body into the ground, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope onto the Resurrection of eternal life, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ will refashion our bodies and liken them unto his own.” I especially appreciate these words because they take on even more meaning for Ash Wednesday, where I add these words as I smear a cross of dust (ashes) across your forehead: “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.”
It’s all about mortality and facing our own end, a journey that we all have to take. What is refreshing about this is that we are reminded that we are not immortal, that we are not divine, but that we are truly human. We become dust, but that is not the last word – we are redeemed dust, raised with our Lord.
The following is a poem by Marilyn Nelson, which caused me to meditate on what it means to be dust and also on her words that say: “Thank you”. Each day I travel closer to being dust, but I still remain thankful for this journey and for that love that will grasp me at the end and never let me go. That is my hope, that is my faith as I look toward tomorrow.
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
from equator to pole.
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.
– Marilyn Robinson