All men are dust and to dust they shall return. This is a seemingly grim statement, yet it is also one imbued with humility. What is man, whose life is measured in years and decades, in the great scope of God’s creation? To what can we aspire, so small in power and with a constitution so riddled with sin? Man is like a sigh: one moment he is there and the next he is gone. “Vanity of vanities,” so says Qoheleth, “all is vanity.”
When I was a novice brother, I remember attending the funeral of Br. Peter Yost, O.P., may he rest in peace. He was a man I barely knew, though the brothers shared many stories of him, but I remember that the chapel at St. Albert’s Priory was particularly dusty that day. The funeral took place at that time of day where the light shone just right as to cast its rays onto the dust that floated so lazily through the air. The entire chapel was transformed, if for only a few minutes, into a realm of glistening motes.
I was filled with awe. Mere dust, indeed, but how the light changed it! I thought about the words of Ecclesiastes on that day, as I reflect on them now, and realized how deeply those words truly cut. We are dust, unassuming and plain, yet when stirred up by a gust of wind and penetrated by the light, we, too, are transformed. Though dust may only remain dust in this time, it has taken on a characteristic beyond all reckoning: it has taken on a characteristic that is more comparable to gemstones of great worth than to something as mundane as its former state.
Like the dust floating through the air in a sunlit room, so are we in the presence of God. We are stirred up not by any ordinary wind, but by the Holy Spirit. Once so stirred, the light that is the grace of God illuminates us and radiates forth from us just the same as a mote caught in sunlight. So it is that our relationship with God elevates our nature into something so much greater than it could possibly be by its own power. How important it is that we let that radiance be cast upon us. How important it is that we do not remain in the shadow of sin; that sad place where our humble nature can never be as beautiful as God intended; that place where nothing shines and the air is stagnant and dead. What a sorry fate! I say that if we are dust, then we should be like dust dancing in the daylight.
Br. Thaddeus Frost, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE