Skip to comments.Every Ash Wednesday comes the question about ashes: to burn or to buy?
Posted on 03/01/2006 11:40:11 AM PST by NYer
The Rev. Catherine Brall once tried making ashes for Ash Wednesday the traditional way, by burning Palm Sunday palms.
"It was such an ordeal. The palms don't burn easily. I tried mixing it with oil, but you get all of these strings in it. We tried to grind them down with a mortar and pestle. I admire anyone who does that," said the Rev. Brall, provost of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Downtown.
Burn vs. buy is a debate for churches as Lent begins. All Catholic and many Protestant churches impose ashes as a sign of repentance on the first day of Lent, which is today.
The Rev. Brall's altar guild now buys ashes from Kirner's Catholic Bookstore. At her prior parish, another church gave her ashes.
"They go a long way," she said. "I was there for 8 1/2 years, and we went through a quarter of a pill bottle in that time."
Not so at St. Mary of Mercy, the Catholic parish where thousands of Downtown workers line up around the block, leaving with large cruciform smudges on their foreheads.
The Rev. Thomas Sparacino, pastor of St. Mary, burns palm fronds with the help of the church's maintenance man. If it's a large batch, they do it at the maintenance man's home, but they burn small amounts in the barbecue on the rooftop patio of St. Mary's.
It's worth the effort because "it gives people the understanding that we've lived through a whole year of celebrating -- and it's also a way of disposing of the blessed palms properly. But, even more, it's to uphold the traditions of the church," he said.
Burning the palms requires patience; they smolder rather than burst into flame, he said.
(Excerpt) Read more at post-gazette.com ...
Our pastor mixes the ashes with holy water then paints a large cross on our foreheads. It makes quite an impression +
Like a lot of parishes, our pastors over the years have asked people to bring in their palms from the previous year to prepare ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Not burning well enough? More heat!!!
We had our annual dinner last night for Mardi Gras, and we burned the palms afterward, without trouble I might add.
The lutheran church i was a member of before I converted used "recycled" kingsford.
Trust an Episcopal "priestess" to be unable to figure out how to burn something. You need a bunch of guys to burn stuff. They always find a way, even if it involves gasoline or liquid oxygen . . . one of my favorite websites is the one where the engineers got to experimenting on how fast they could light a barbeque grill . . . the answer, with liquid oxygen, is measured in fractions of a second. Problem is, it vaporizes the grill!
"Episcopal" and "burn" used in a sentence together bring up some interesting allusions.
I burn my own.
Well done & crispy.
The exact opposite of how I like my steaks.
Much the same as in TX >>>
Where does Ash Wednesday get its ashes?
Christians share behind-the-scenes details of the ashes used to mark the faithful.
By Eileen E. Flynn
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
When he lived in Chicago, the Rev. Lou Brusatti remembers, people would see his clerical collar and stop him on the street every Ash Wednesday.
"Hey, Father, you got any ashes with you?"
Brusatti, now the humanities dean at St. Edward's University in Austin, quickly learned to carry a small bag of ashes with him on the day when Christians begin their 40-day Lenten journey.
There's something powerful, Brusatti said, about the cross-shaped mark millions of Christians receive on their foreheads every year on Ash Wednesday, which is today. It's a public sign of one's faith, a reminder of one's mortality and a pledge to repent and draw closer to God in preparation for Easter.
But where do these ashes come from?
The ash used in services is made from burned palm fronds used in services on the previous year's Palm Sunday, when Christians commemorate Christ's triumphant return to Jerusalem days before his crucifixion.
It's up to each congregation to procure its own ash for the ceremony, and relatively few still make their own.
Cristo Rey Catholic Church in East Austin burns its own. At St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Fort Worth, members bring their palm branches in and gather for a burning ceremony on the parish grounds on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Central Austin relies on parishioner Tom Blomquist to make the ashes in a container at his home.
Some churches burn the fronds whole; others grind the leaves with a mortar and pestle first. The process might involve a barbecue pit and holy water. Everyone has a different technique.
But beware the artificial fire log. The Rev. June Wilkins, associate pastor of St. Martin's, related a cautionary tale from a church that will remain anonymous.
Seems the staff ran out of palm leaves and decided a store-bought fire log would have to suffice. As it turned out, the ashes from the sawdust and petroleum wax product left a cross-shaped rash on parishioners' foreheads after the ashes wore off.
Even with real fronds, the process can be messy, which is why many churches prefer to buy ashes.
Ziegler's, a company that provides candles, chalices and cassocks to churches throughout the Southwest, showcases ashes "made from pure palm leaves" on its Web site. A $6.50 bag serves 300; $14.95 buys ashes for 1,200.
And then there are the Ash Wednesday accoutrements: a selection of nickel-plated and crystal containers, a hand-blown glass anointing bowl, and metal and wooden ash dispensers.
Brusatti keeps ashes at the campus chapel in a tiny bowl that fits in the palm of his hand. Enough to serve 1,000, he said. "It doesn't take much."
The Ash Wednesday tradition dates to around the eighth century, when Christians would perform public penance for their sins. The ash reminds the faithful of their sin and their mortality.
"Remember thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return," the priest would intone as he marked foreheads.
"There's something about the symbolism that touches people really at the core of who they are," Brusatti said. "It ties people to the earth. It ties people to one another, and it really points us toward a baptism that we all share, and ultimately it points us toward Easter and the resurrection."
In the end, the rite comes down to applying the mark on the foreheads of the faithful. And different clergy have different techniques for that as well.
St. Martin's adds olive oil to its ash for better adhesion. St. Andrew's in Fort Worth uses straight ash.
Brusatti said the oil in people's skin helps the ashes stick. "It's easy to make them adhere," Brusatti said. "They love to adhere to makeup."
There's an art to administering the ashes. No one wants to walk out of church with a vague grayish smear. The mark is meant to show a clear, dark cross, a sign of the person's faith and Lenten journey.
"I like strong smudges, myself. I always try to get enough ash that you can make a cross that's discernible."
One that will last throughout the day, which is how long you're supposed to keep the ashes on. Brusatti said most people wear them to bed and then wash their faces Thursday morning.
Honoring sooty St. Nick ping.
Thank you for the ping, dear!