Skip to comments.Ash Wednesday: Our Shifting Understanding of Lent
Posted on 02/09/2005 5:33:48 AM PST by kellynla
Those who work with liturgy in parishes know that some of the largest crowds in the year will show up to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Though this is not a holy day of obligation in our tradition, many people would not think of letting Ash Wednesday go by without a trip to church to be marked with an ashen cross on their foreheads. Even people who seldom come to Church for the rest of the year may make a concerted effort to come for ashes.
How did this practice become such an important part of the lives of so many believers? Who came up with the idea for this rather odd ritual? How do we explain the popularity of smudging our foreheads with ashes and then walking around all day with dirty faces? Those who do not share our customs often make a point of telling us that we have something on our foreheads, assuming we would want to wash it off, but many Catholics wear that smudge faithfully all day.
Ashes in the Bible
The origin of the custom of using ashes in religious ritual is lost in the mists of pre-history, but we find references to the practice in our own religious tradition in the Old Testament. The prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26).
(Excerpt) Read more at americancatholic.org ...
Another interesting piece can be found here:
It explains the Catholic roots of Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday)
According to our parish priest, Ash Wednesday surpasses Easter and Christmas for attendance.
what my mother would refer to as "A&P" Catholics...Ash Wednesday & Palm Sunday!
Well I don't know about that consdiering the number of Masses on Easter and Christmas where unless you get there early you don't get a seat...I don't think you'll have that problem on today. LOL
Well, I'm going to the 6:30 A.M. Mass; I won't have a problem with space.
And I trust you will go get ashes as part of your celebration...
I always get a lump in my throat: "Remember, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shall return"
It's the same in any religion -- some attend services, some don't. Catholics KNOW that they are supposed to...and still don't. They don't get it that the honor of being able to receive the body and blood of their Maker is unique for all religions. They are cavalier about it and take the lazy path.
Most do attend and understand so please don't generalize like that.
Well, I'm not Catholic, so would they still ash me? I went to a Catholic service once, and the priest said I couldn't partake of the Lord's supper. He said all he could do was bless me.
Those who do not share our customs often make a point of telling us that we have something on our foreheads, assuming we would want to wash it off, but many Catholics wear that smudge faithfully all day.
When I came in the military was the first time I saw this, and I made that mistake. I told someone they had something on there forehead. It was an honest mistake. They were nice, and explained what it was.
You can certainly receive ashes.
And you just might enjoy the service.
Remember you are dust...
Yes. We "ash" everybody who comes up.
Well, maybe I'll see what I can do at lunch time.
The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1). Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).
Jesus made reference to ashes, "If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago" (Matthew 11:21).
In the Middle Ages, the priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return."
The Church adapted the use of ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we use ashes made from the burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven.
Interesting. YOU just wrote a sweeping generalization yourself. Perhaps you are unaware of it.
Please don't tell me what to do. Thank you.