The other day I read that ashes (like we receive on Ash Wednesday) are synonymous with clay. At our church, the words “Turn away from sin, and be faithful to the Gospel” are said when we receive ashes. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” are other words that are sometimes said. The connection with clay is that clay begins as dust.
Maybe some do not like the second version because it seems to say that we are dust–nothing. In our world where self-esteem has become so important, those words words might seem harmful.
However, I have found a certain paradox when saying the Jesus Prayer–Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. By acknowledging that I am a sinner–dust, nothing and unworthy–I am somehow freed to let go of my need to be perfect. The need to be perfect is always a big blow to my self esteem, because I never am and know I never will be. If I base my worth on being perfect, I will never feel good about myself.
By praying the Jesus Prayer, I give myself to God and ask for mercy. It is in God’s mercy that I am worthy of God’s love.
As I think about being dust and clay, I am reminded of the verse in Isaiah 64:8 “But as for you, O LORD, you are our Father; and we are clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hands.”
I chose the Kazuri clay beads for this Chotki to be symbolic of our need to be like clay in the Lord’s hands. To be like clay, we need to be soft and pliable. We need to let go of all that has hardened our hearts in order to receive God. Part of doing that is repenting of our sins. Another way is to let go. We need to let go of our resistance and let Our Father’s hands form us.
Click on picture of the woman above for more information on Fair Trade Kazuri beads from Kenya.