Ash Wednesday

William Dyce Christ as the man of sorrows

William Dyce, Man of Sorrows (1860), National Galleries Scotland

Remember child, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.


Feeling the crustiness of the ashes on my forehead

dried and tightening my skin

cracking with the wrinkles on my brow

I am minded of dust and ageing and death,

of creaking joints, of trembling hands,

of furrows ploughed, seeds sown and grown,

and withering mortality.


And you sit there, a young man still, in your prime.

hands clasped loosely on your lap.

What have they done, those hands?

Who have they held, loved, supported?

You’ve still so much to do with them,

so much to heal, to care, to bless, to break, to give.

You look at them, relax them and close your eyes in prayer.

The wind dies down and the only sound is your heartbeat, your breathing.

The cold stone is unforgiving beneath you, hard and unyielding

but you pray about forgiveness, about repentance and renewal.


A voice says you could turn that stone into bread if you want.

You think of stone and you think of bread.

One hard and the other soft.

Bread to feed the hungry,

to feed thousands one day in the hills.

Stone and bread.

This is so hard.

Pray that it may not be so.


2 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday

  1. Today, in the hospital, I was chastising someone who hadn’t eaten the bread roll that had come along with their lentil soup at lunch time. (She needs building up and eating is still a bit of a battle.) The reason she hadn’t ate it was that she said it was hard – as it was still in its little plastic bag so I am not sure how she knew that, but that was her reason. It reminded me of this and showed her the picture, she couldn’t read the words on my mobile phone so I read them out to her. When I looked up a tear was running down her cheek and she asked if we could use the roll to have communion. We did, thank you Ruth from both of us. Oh and by the way the roll was hard, yesterdays had been too which was why she thought today’s would be also, but that made it all the more powerful.


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