Remember you are dust, destined for Divinity

Ash Wednesday 2006I wish everyone who reads these words a blessed Ash Wednesday and a Holy Lent.

Monday I was speaking with one of the brothers at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, and he noted that the Vatican does not require any particular words to be said during the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Most priests say something along the lines of “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  But this particular monk says…

Remember you are dust, destined for Divinity.

This reminds me of the title of a wonderful book on the spiritual life I am currently reading (slowly, savoring every wise word): Beloved Dust, by Robert Davis Hughes III. Bob Hughes talks about how the heart of Christian spirituality is simultaneously a celebration of humanity’s sheer earthiness (remember, we are dust), and yet even in our humility (which means “of humus”, of the earth) we are deeply and profoundly loved by our Triune maker.

Traditionally, Ash Wednesday has been a day of repentance, and indeed it is wise to ponder one’s limitations and mistake-making on a day like this. But let us never forget that we are dust — dust beloved by God — dust destined for Divinity.

What Has Not Yet Been Revealed
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Mike

    Mr. McColman, thank you for those words from the monk. I have often thought that we tend to misunderstand the penitential nature of Lent and forget our own sacredness. At the risk of shameful self promotion, my blog is It has a couple of Lenten posts that fit the theme of your post.

    Bob Hughes was my theology professor – good man and teacher.

    Peace and a holy Lent.

  • Carl McColman

    Hey, I’m the king of the self-promoting plug, so there’s no shame in linking back to your blog on this site.

  • Gwyn

    Thank you for your reminder. I love ritual, but I think that we sometimes forget that the purpose of ritual is to help us connect with God more fully. I hesitate to wish a joyous Lent upon anyone given the somber nature of the season, but perhaps we can find joy in the learning of penitence and connection with the Trinity.

  • Linda Nicola

    You look really good in that photo, happy, relaxed, gleam to the eye. I hope that’s a recent photo. You’ve had it tough lately. I’m thinking of you.


  • Carl McColman

    It’s from 2006. So it’s three years old. But I think I look about the same.

  • claudia mair burney

    And I thought it rocked my world when last year I heard for the first time, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Thanks for this, and a blessed and holy Lent to you.