Several years ago, our family visited Disney World in Florida. At the end of the day we visited an old-time village area. The soft glowing orange street lights cast a sunset like ambiance. I thought afterward, that it was the perfect replica of a time which never was. For one thing, there was no dust.
Lent jerks us back to reality. No matter how good we make our lives look, no matter how we much security, comfort and affirmation we find in the things with which we surround ourselves, Lent takes us back to the truth about ourselves.
We are dust and to dust we shall return. In Genesis, we discover our origin, “The Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And the man became a living being.” But after the man and the woman ate of the tree from which God had forbidden them to eat, death entered the once perfect garden. Humanity’s end would be to return to dust and be part of the environment in which the tempter would spend its life.
We dress up death and hide our bodies in ornate coffins and concrete sealed boxes in the ground, to remain well preserved as we lay beneath the dust; that will be our home til worlds end, unless…
Thomas Merton wrote: “The cross, with which the ashes are traced upon our forehead, is the sign of Christ’s victory over death.”
In a Byzantine evening service the people prayed: The Lord my Creator took me as dust from the earth, and formed me into a living being. But Satan deceived me and gave me other to the earth and to the lowest depths of the earth. In compassion, O Savior, call me back again.