"From dust you were created, and to dust you will return."
I can't think about Ash Wednesday without remembering Anne Lamott's story. She talks about scattering the ashes of her father and her friend Pammy. "They're impossible to let go of entirely," she writes. While it is an odd story, I find the idea of ashes clinging beautiful. As I think about today, I picture Anne tasting the ashes of her friend.
And yes, it is creepy.
For those not used to thinking about death, the entire Lenten season is creepy. We stumble toward the cross, pondering our own mortality.
I grew up fascinated by Lent, likely the effects of being an evangelical in Louisiana. My church didn't observe the season, but the community and culture around me did. We got out of school for Mardi Gras. One year, I even learned the French National Anthem to sing with an ensemble for one of the local parades. The school cafeteria resorted to serving fish on Fridays and all over town one would see invitations to fish fries.
The Episcopal church down the street had a large wooden cross next to the church sign. Throughout Lent, fabric would be draped on the cross, bearing the colors of the season. Even before I understood the significance, I enjoyed when we drove by and saw the colors changing throughout the season.
These days, evangelicals are more likely to be schooled in Lenten practices. My Baptist church will have an Ash Wednesday service tonight, and while we aren't yet brave enough to mark crosses on each other's foreheads, we join our brothers and sisters in being symbolically marked for death.
And perhaps, in the midst of communion, I'll think about Anne Lamott, licking her friend's ashes off her fingers... in that nice, symbolic sense, I suppose that is exactly what we'll being doing.
EDIT I stand corrected. First: I mistakenly mentioned communion because I was thinking too far ahead in the Lenten season. Second: we did indeed impose ashes this year. Who knew, my Baptist church is growing up ;0) And yes, I did taste them.
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