“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
With these words the ashes will be marked on your forehead in the sign of the cross. The ashes are a sign of repentance, but they are also a sober reminder for a sobering day. We were formed from the dust, and one day we shall return.
Humility begins with recognizing our place in the universe. We acknowledge our mortality. Some may say this is depressing. We say it is true. We begin with truth.
It strikes me as prophetically true. The book of Genesis begins with humans being formed from the dust. Today scientists have come to the same conclusion: we are made of stardust. Every atom in your body came from a star. Different parts of your body may have come from different stars. Genesis got it right.
On Ash Wednesday we acknowledge our mortality. We are dusty finite human beings standing before the infinite mysteries of an ancient universe. Repentance begins with humility. Humility means knowing our place in the cosmos.
When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.
– Joel 2