At noon today, I’ll be heading down to St. Joe’s to get my forehead smudged. I’ll be lining up for the treatment with a few other occasional Catholics, and a house full of real ones.
When I get to the front the priest will look at me and tell me to remember that I am dust, and to dust I’ll return. Then he’ll dip his thumb into some ashes, from the burning of last years palm leaves, and make a cross on my forehead. I’ll go back to my seat, genuflect, and try to keep my mind on the experience, hoping to make some existential connection with the awe and mystery of this holy season.
I’ll be bothered by the reminder about my dust-destination. But nothing puts the meaning back into being-contingent like seeing hundreds of people around me marked by wet ash. And for me, it’s our contingency that’s the beginning of mystery.