Somewhere in St Thomas More's "Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation" the all-too-human tendency to make light of the dying person's prospects of actually dying is criticised. Indeed the absurdity of denying the probable and apparent approach of death even to those of extreme age and frailty when an open facing of the facts might provide them with an opportunity to be properly prepared is emphasised. I mention this because, as I received my ashes today, I was told to "Turn away from sin and believe the Good News."
Salutary and much-needed advice such that I cannot fault. It appears to be a legitimate option in the current rite. As an option, however, it seems to have come to dominate to the extent that I cannot recall having heard the words "Remember...you are dust...." for several years now and I wonder Why?
Do the clergy look at me and think, "There is a fine fit fellow in the very bloom of health. No point in worrying him with a prospect that is clearly years, nay, decades away." Or is it that the priest sees me and thinks "Poor fellow! His life is hanging by the merest of threads. Better not risk startling him with thoughts of death for fear that he might just pop his clogs right here and now!"
Well I suppose the important thing is that one does make the effort to turn away from sin- because that is the practical point for one whichever form of words is used ... and yet....
And yet, I think I should prefer the traditional words- not least because they have a whole range of resonances. They take us back to Genesis and our human solidarity with Adam and the rest of humanity and even with created matter itself. We"share the likeness of the earthly man..." It is far from being the end of the story. Indeed it is a beginning!
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