For the Love of Dust

Formed from dust of the earth.

Formed from dust of the earth.

Julian of Norwich enters the room (tomb) reserved for the Anchorite, yet for Julian, the symbolism becomes rather meaningless except for the time and space it provides for God’s clarifying presence. The visions and subsequent revelations instruct Julian that the cross itself is not a symbol to revere. The sacrifice of Jesus, the mutilation and bloodletting of the divine-human body is an eternal manifestation of God’s unbounded love. It is a lived reality that humanity is welcomed into, only they must enter through the wound and be absorbed. It is to enter that space, “become that space—where thinking otherwise can happen; where creative responses to the deathly structures of modernity can be discerned,” the means by which they might be enacted, and be “endlessly born.”[1]

The vision of Christ and the copious blood that flows from his wounded head, hands, feet and side, is occasion for Julian to “read” Jesus’ body, and contemplate the meaning of sin. She understands the mutilated, broken body that degrades and bleeds in the same manner of the medieval carnival grotesque body. For when the blood and body are absorbed into the earth, they regenerate into new life. In this way, Christ offers his body, leaves open the wound on his side for all to enter and be absorbed into his own body. The incorporation into it absorbs our sin into his flesh so that it may be regenerated, transformed into something entirely new.[2]

The divine human body enters the ground to make all things well. Today, this Ash Wednesday, we reflect on the dirt, the dust whence we came, to which we will return, and that, itself, will be made well.

As I reflected on dust I realized my house is a paragon of dust! So, out came some picture and this video. Take some time with me to focus on these images—the dust and dirt that judge and humiliate—the very dust that is redeemed. The music is rapturous and the words of old—an Alsatian monk from the early fourteenth century.





[1] Grace Jantzen, Julian of Norwich: Mystic and Theologian (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2000). xx-xxi.

[2] Frederick C. Bauerschmidt, Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ, ed. Bernard McGinn Lawrence Cunningham, and David Tracy, Studies in Spirituality and Theology, vol. 5 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999)., 85.

2 thoughts on “For the Love of Dust

  1. Pingback: For the Love of Dust | Howie's Blog

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