(An imaginary conversation.)
“What do you mean?”
“At my school. Every year they sing this song about ashes. It’s so weird.”
“Oh. Do you mean the one that goes ‘We rise again from ashes…’?”
“Exactly. Why do they have to sing it? It’s not good.”
“No, I don’t think so either. Sit down for a minute and I’ll show you what I think is wrong with it. Now let me write down the first verse:
We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true
An offering of ashes, an offering to you.
And here is the last verse:
Praise be to the Father, who made us like himself.
Praise be to the Son, who saved us by his death.
Praise be to the Spirit who creates our world anew
From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
Okay, when you look at those two verses, which is worse?”
“Well, the last one isn’t too bad. But the first one is terrible.”
“I agree. Can you say exactly what is wrong with it?”
“Well, for one thing, it makes us look terrible. I mean, I know we’re sinners and all that, but if you say ‘all our world is ashes’ it just sounds too strict.”
“I agree. If we thought that being sinners made us totally depraved, well, that might be okay to say. But as Catholics we believe that there is a lot of good in the world. And in us.”
“The other thing I don’t like is it reminds me of a phoenix. I mean, phoenixes are cool, but is that right to sing about in church?”
“I don’t think so. Hmm, I wonder if phoenixes ever were Christian symbols? Could be, I’ll google it later. But I would at least say that I’m not crazy about that image, because if I remember right, phoenixes rise out of their ashes as their exact same selves. But the New Testament is clear about the fact that when we rise, we shall be changed. We’ll be ourselves, but different. But anyways there’s something else that I think is a real problem with that verse.”
“Look at the last two lines of the last verse. Who is doing the action?”
“The Spirit. I guess they mean the Holy Spirit.”
“Right. And who is doing the action in the first verse?”
“We are. That’s it, that’s what I don’t like.”
“Exactly. When was the last time I created something? Never. I make things, and I have children, which is as close as I come to creating anything. But I’ve never created something from nothing. I’ve never caused something to rise from the dead. The last verse gets it right. The first verse, I think, is completely wrong. It’s misleading and it’s wrong. I won’t even go into the second verse.”
“Okay, that makes sense. I mean, that it’s God’s job to change us, even if we try to do what we can. I mean, I try, but I can’t do it all.
Anyways, I hope they don’t sing it next year.”