While our Lenten booklet on praying a mantra in daily life will encourage us to find our own personal mantra and stick with it, our whole faith – our worship and our scriptures – are made up of many short mantras. They are made up of short prayerful sentences that stick, become ingrained, and become a part of our life:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
This is my body, this is my blood.
We are the body of Christ.
Draw near with faith.
Seek and you shall find.
I am the bread of life, come to me and do not hunger.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again
– and so on, and so on.
Mantra, after mantra, after mantra; that become a part of our spiritual journey.
Ash Wednesday as its own particular mantra which is at the heart of today’s worship and ritual. That mantra is: Remember you are dust.
Remember you are dust, remember where you come from, what you are a part of. Everything comes from dust, dust connects us to everything else in creation; and to God who, Genesis tells us, breathes life into dust and forms it in his own image.
Remember you are dust is a mantra that is humbling. We have the same origin as everything else that exists, has existed, will exist. We all come from that same explosion of dust when the universe began – there is nothing more, or less, special about you or me than anything else in all creation. We are just plain ordinary dust.
When we are anointed with ash we are reminded of this; but, at the same time, we are also reminded what that dust can become when it moulded by, and given life by, God. It becomes a beautiful creation with incredible potential.
What this holy day calls us to do is to surrender the dust that we are to Gods creative presence and love; to get out of the way and let God get on with what God does. Our lives, mine and yours, are being carefully designed to bring us to that ultimate goal of love and divine wonder. This day says: don’t resist, but trust – and surrender to the divine breath and image within you.
So as we receive the anointing of ash, the anointing of dust, we acknowledge and embrace our humble origins; and yet, at the same time, dare to believe in what we are becoming by the divine breath and presence the gives us life and meaning.