Wednesday, February 21, 2007
There are stars in the ashes!
After all the pancakes and syrup, the scrambled eggs and sausages had been served at the Shrove (‘Fat’) Tuesday Supper, I gathered up all of the old, dried palms which had been brought in or had been stored since the last Sunday of Passion, and began burning them in the small outside kettle grille – the same one, by the way, we use to start the new fire of The Great Vigil of Easter.
Some of the little kids gathered around, sitting on the stairs, as my seminarians and other members of the church carefully tended the flame. We marveled as the flames occasionally fanned down and the embers would circle round and round, causing a fantastic glowing effect in the darkness of the kettle, lighting and warming the darkness of that cold February night.
“Look!” said Chloe, one of our very astute four year olds, “There are stars in the ashes!”
Which got me to thinking.
I recently read an article which stated that scientists are now convinced that we – the composition of our bodies – have more in common with stars than the earth. I like that idea. I like it very much. It gives me a new way to talk about the Ash Wednesday ritual of marking our foreheads with the ashes of palms.
At the first day of Lent, as each person comes forward for the imposition of ashes, I say to them, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This year, I hope we remember that we are star dust, and to star dust we shall return.
If we knew that about ourselves, then it might enable us to look at another person and remember that the dust of the stars lives in them, too. If we are able to see that little bit of the heavens in ourselves, perhaps we might recognize it in others as well.
And, if we recognize our connection to something greater than what is right here and right now, we may be able to work with others to make ourselves better people and make our world a better place in which to live.
Isn’t that what the holiness of a Holy Lent is really all about?
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Lent is a time to enter into “self-examination and repentance” and consider our “mortality and penitence.” As you sift through the ashes of your life, remember to reach way down into the depths of your being to find your soul. For it is there, in the smoldering embers circling round and round, that you may discover the stars.