Sacred Signs: Ashes

Authored by Romano Guardini in Issue #32.2 of The Sower

Status message

This is a free online article available for non-subscribers. Start your subscription today!

At the edge of a wood stands a larkspur, its deep green leaves characteristically rounded, and with delicately bending, yet firmly formed, slender, stem.  The blossom seems as if cut out of heavy silk, of a blue as deep as a gem, so that the whole air around seems filled with it.  Someone comes and plucks the flower, and then, getting tired of it, throws it on the fire.  In a few moments the whole bright splendour has become a small streak of grey ash.

And what the fire has done here in a few moments, that time does constantly to all that is alive; to the dainty fern, to the tall mullein, to the mighty, upstanding oak.  It does the same to the light butterfly and the swift flying swallow; to the agile little squirrel and to the massive ox; always it is the same, whether faster or slower.  It may come from a wound or from sickness, from fire, or starvation, or what not; but sooner or later all glowing life becomes mere ash.

From the strong form, a trembling handful of dust, which a puff of wind will scatter.  From the shining colours, a grey powder.  From the warm, growing, feeling life, barren, dead earth, less than earth – ashes!

So it is with us also.  Do we not shudder when we look into an open grave and see, besides some bones, a few handfuls of grey ash?

‘Remember, Man, that thou art dust;

And to dust shalt thou return.’

Destruction, that is the meaning of Ashes.

Our destruction, not that of others.  Ours – mine!  They speak to me of my passing away, when the priest, on the first day of Lent, marks my forehead with ashes which were fresh green branches on the previous Palm Sunday.

‘Memento, homo, quia pulvis es

Et in pulverem reverteris.’

All will become ashes.  My house, my clothes, my goods, my money; field and heath and forest; the dog that runs at my side, the cattle in the stall; the hand with which I write, the seeing eye, and my whole body; people I have loved, people I have hated, people I have feared; whatever has seemed to me on earth to be great, or to be small, or to be contemptible: all, ashes – all!

This liturgical meditation is take from Guardini's book, Sacred Signs.

This excerpt is found on page 27 of the printed edition.


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Procreation & Responsible Parenthood
By Dr. Donald P. Asci
In the second chapter of his Theology of the Body (TOB) catechesis, [i] Pope St. John Paul II underscores the special value of TOB for men and women seeking to understand the teachings of the Church in the area of sexual morality (TOB 59:5). The ultimate conclusion of these teachings is that, in order to conform to the demands of human dignity, a... Read more
Encountering God in Catechesis
By Colleen Rainone
Several years ago, I was working as a parish Coordinator of Youth Ministry, and one of my responsibilities was teaching a high school religious education class. The class was arranged by the parish DRE and met as part of her programming each Wednesday night. There was no set textbook or program. We had a wide range of topics and materials... Read more
AD: New Word of Life Series
By Colleen Rainone
Free Learn more about Word of Life's evangelizing catechesis at wordoflifeseries.org or call 855-967-3720.... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now