This is an old kind of poetic expression -- quatrains, maybe, or a villanelle: the vaulted ceiling of St. Patrick's, on Ash Wednesday.
I've always loved the ritual of getting ashes -- Remember, man, you are but dust, and unto dust you shall return. (Okay, I was a very strange child.) But for some reason, while most people end up with fairly small, vaguely cross-shaped marks, I always get a huge shapeless blob that makes me look more like a coal miner who happened to wander onto Fifth Avenue than a suitably chastened congregant observing an ancient custom.
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