February 21, 2007: Ash Wednesday
ASHES OF STARS WE ARE
Today’s the day we return to reality, not the playground of Wall Street or Bourbon Street, but the dusty plain from which man’s very stuff was taken and to which it will return. We remember how fully we are dependent upon our Maker, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer.
I know what’s going on and yet I don’t. At least I don’t appreciate it. When the priest rubs the mixture of oil and ashes upon my forehead, when he makes that simple cross, I should be shocked by the realization that I’m little more than a ghost. Like all human beings, I live at the gate to the cemetery, dwelling there for less than a century.
And yet I’m struck by the glory of the ashes from which we’re made. Now we know that the stuff of our bodies is literally ashes. The first generation of stars formed only a short billion years or so after our universe began to expand during the complex events jokingly called the Big Bang. Those stars are believed to have been very large and very fast-burning. They were made of hydrogen with a small percentage of helium — the conditions of the early universe were extreme but weren’t proper for the production of any significant amount of the higher elements needed for life as we know it. The fusion processes of those early stars were up to the task.
Those stars had short lives, exploding as monstrous novas in a matter of millions of years instead of the 5 or 6 billions years of life given to the typical star in the universe at this time. And those heavier elements, ashes from those nuclear forges, were scattered about the universe, some making their way into the gas cloud which collapsed to form the sun and its planets. The earth is very rich in those ashes of that first generation of stars.
We are made of ashes which were the waste-products of powerhouse stars which could have swallowed the entire solar system. And yet the Son of God became one of us, taking up to His own divine and sacred Person a human body made of those ashes, those waste-products. He died on the cross and rose from the grave that He might also raise from the grave all those the Father gave to Him.
Ashes we are but ashes of some creaturely glory, the waste-products of truly magnificent stars from billions of years ago. Yet, those ashes and even the stars themselves are paltry things not suited for a divine Person.
Why did He come to enter the grave which is the natural fate of mortal man? Why did He join His fate to the fates of those given to Him by the Father? Why did He create such small things as those early stars? Was it just to make His own human body of their ashes?Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Lenten meditations, Peace of Christ, Religion