Today is Ash Wednesday — the beginning of the church calendar season of Lent. Traditionally, people are signed with an ash cross as the words ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return’ or ‘Repent, and believe the good news’ are spoken.
I like the way this links repentance with accepting our creatureliness — our limitations, etc.
It highlights the way in which sin, by contrast, is typically characterised by us overstepping our creaturely limitations.
In the Garden, the serpent’s original temptation was an invitation to reach out for equality with God — ‘then you will be like God, knowing good and evil’.
Ash Wednesday speaks of God’s loving and holy response to this. Even as it reminds us of our inescapable limitations, it points us forward — not to their removal but to their fulfilment in that repentance with which we’re to greet God’s kingdom.