Thou are dust…and to dust you shall return (Day 52 of Project 365)

Apologies for the grainy photo. We were in the middle of mass and I can already feel my soul slowly being lowered to the deepest recesses of hell.

I am not a big fan of holidays. I develop rashes and hives whenever Christmas and Valentines roll into town. But I love Ash Wednesdays and Easter (and also Halloween — but that’s another story).

I love Ash Wednesdays because of the gravity of its symbolism: “we all came from ashes and from ashes we shall return”. I love how this time of the year provides us the opportunity to reflect on the transience of life. How we can be here one day and gone the next. I love how it reminds us to prioritize the really important things in life: like family and health and being a good human being. During mass earlier, the priest said that we will never be given a chance to bring our material wealth to heaven when we finally kick the bucket — and well, it’s the truth. What really matters is how we have managed to earn brownie points in heaven while we are still alive.

And oh, one thing that I also love about Ash Wednesday is the cross placed on our forehead. I always get a kick out of seeing really big ones, the type that threatens to brand you a sinner for life if I doesn’t get erased immediately. I don’t like those small, lonely faint crosses that immediately gets washed away by the grime and oil of everyday living.

When I was young, my religion teacher told us that if the crosses are distinct and heavy and very thick, it means you are sinner. You can just imagine how guilty I would become every time Ash Wednesday rolls around and I always end up with a giant advertisement of my transgressions cleverly imprinted on my forehead. I kept asking if God knows I have been getting coins from my dad’s jeans pocket or my mom’s cash box. I feel like I have just been branded a sinner, the only thing missing are the colored lights and blinking neon signs advertising my temporary residency in Gomorrah.

I hope you were able to visit church today. May the start of your Lent be blessed.

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