Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I have read several beautiful poems that describe the process when human remains replenish our earth. However, I don’t think that our reciting the above on Ash Wednesday is meant to remind us of the cycle of nature.
Instead we are reminded of our fragility and equality. Each of us enters the world when God fills our lungs with his breath of life. We all leave for the spiritual world when God’s breath leaves our lungs for the last time and our spirit ascends and our physical presence remains. So far, no amount of power, wealth, or mental acuity can change the equality of how we enter the world or leave it.
We recite the above on this day with pentitent hearts. We all sin, make mistakes, and fail to answer God’s call to some degree. Yet, when we raise our eyes from today’s prayer and look at the face of God, we are greeted by a smiling and loving face. Today is not a reminder of our failures, but of our promise.