Skip to comments.Being Catholic: Sacred Things, Ashes
Posted on 04/22/2007 8:37:13 PM PDT by Salvation
Ecclesiasticus 7:40 "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin." -- or as one would say in Latin, "Hodie mihi, cras tibi" ("Today me, tomorrow you"). They are a liturgical "memento mori." The ashes are made by the burning of palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The blessing of the ashes begins with an antiphon and a verse of a psalm begging God's grace and mercy. Then come four prayers which express what the ashes symbolize and how they are to be seen and used by us: We make no response to these words; we simply return to our pews.
In the 17th. c., a style of painting known as "vanitas painting" became popular (see above). This style included elements that represented temporal bounty - flowers, fruits, etc., and symbols of riches, such as gold and jewels. These gorgeous gifts from God were then juxtaposed with symbols that showed the reality of death, usually a skull, or an hourglasses that symbolized the passage of time.
The point of this style is the moral of which Ecclesiasticus 1 reminds us, "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh..." In other words, the things of this world are transient, and Christians must always keep one eye on the world to come.
Recalling this Truth is one of the principles behind the use of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season of penance: to remind us that we are mortal, subject to the rot and decay our Western culture now desperately tries to euphemize away, and that we are radically dependent on -- solely dependent on -- Jesus Christ to overcome this fate.
They are like a yearly reading of the tombstone inscribed with:
Remember friends as you pass by,
as you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me.
In Genesis 3:19 we hear God tell us "for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return," but nowadays, when someone dies, they are rushed from deathbed to funeral home to be embalmed and to be worked over by a make-up artist so that that "dusty reality" is hidden from us. Their deaths are spoken of as almost an embarrassment; "he passed," they say, or "he is no longer with us." These comforting but sterile luxuries weren't an option in the past when plagues felled so many people that there weren't enough survivors to bury them, when bodies had to be stored all winter until the ground was soft enough to dig, when most of the children a woman bore died before they were able to grow up. In our culture, with our medicines and "funeral sciences," we are afraid to look at death, and we are a poorer people because of it. No matter how long science can prolong life, no matter how much embalming fluid is pumped into a corpse, Nature will have her way. This is the hideous Truth. And when Nature has her way, we can either rest in the knowledge that the ultimate Victor is Christ, Our Lord, Who walked out of His tomb 2,000 years ago and offers resurrection to us, or we can believe that decay is all that is left. This is the meaning of Ash Wednesday.
Ashes are used, too, to express the penitence necessary to come to Christ so that we can experience bodily resurrection at the End of the Age.
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.
The Blessing and Disposition of the Ashes
1. To be a spiritual help for all who confess their sins.
2. To secure pardon of sins for those who receive the ashes.
3. To give us the spirit of contrition.
4. To give us the grace and strength to do penance.
After the priest sprinkles the ashes with holy water and incenses them, he puts some on his own head, and then on the heads of those present, the head being the seat of pride. He puts them on our foreheads in the shape of a Cross to remind us of our hope, and as he does so, he says the words of Genesis 3:
Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris (Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return).
Following the disposition of the ashes come two Antiphons and a Response. Then the priest says another prayer for protection in the coming combat.
After we leave the church, we leave the ashes on our foreheads until they wear off naturally from the course of the day's activities. They are a public witness to those things our society does not wish to embrace: the reality of death, and the hope of resurrection in Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Note: another (informal) use of ashes in the Church is the saving of ashes from the fire built on the Eve of the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist (23 June) to mix with water to bless the sick.
Ecclesiasticus 7:40 "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin."
-- or as one would say in Latin, "Hodie mihi, cras tibi" ("Today me, tomorrow you"). They are a liturgical "memento mori."
The ashes are made by the burning of palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The blessing of the ashes begins with an antiphon and a verse of a psalm begging God's grace and mercy. Then come four prayers which express what the ashes symbolize and how they are to be seen and used by us:
We make no response to these words; we simply return to our pews.
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Golly! With your laundry list of “things holy to catholics” you’re just asking for someone to raise the Idol Worship discussion!
pertaining to or connected with religion
devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated
These are devotional tools, not things we worship.
I like the “memento mori” theme. It gives me perspective.
Seems to me, the witch doctors of Haiti also have their "devotional tools". There seems to be an awful lot non-Scriptural mumbo-jumbo superstition going on here.
BTW, maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any mention of the "devotional tools" used on St. Blaise's day. Care to explain how placing two candles (in the shape of a cross, of course) against my throat and then speaking an incantation (er, prayer) will keep those nasty winter sore throats away?
Can you produce Biblical references showing where any of this "white magic" is authorized!
no doubt you would take exception to someone suggesting you look at a bronze serpent to heal snake bites
In this Age? Yes.
**With your laundry list of things holy to catholics**
I don’t think so. These things are to be added to a celebration to give meaning to it. Or more meaning to it.
For example, on Ash Wednesday — “Remember, man, thou art dust and into dust thou shall return.”
Just the truth. Thanks for your input.
By this logic one could construct a golden lamb and call it sacred. After all, Jesus was the Lamb of God. Similarly, one could erect an image of Jesus as a shepherd and worship it; after all, He was "the good shepherd. In the extreme, one could even erect a figure of Christ on a cross call it sacred; after all, He hung there to pay for our sins.
Let's review Exodus 20:4-5
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,
Continue reading in the Old Testament.
Many people, as an act of repentance, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes and fasted.
Please do not concentrate on just one verse when there are many others that contradict—I don’t have an online concordance that I like so I can’t quote chapter and verse to you — but the acts of these people in the Old Testament are there. So what is so terrivle about the act of repentance in getting a cross marked on one’s forehead with askes?
Look at the facts as presented in the Bible, please. ALL the facts, not just one verse.
You don't really know your Bible very well, do you?
Try people being healed by touching Elijah's bones, and people being healed by having the shadow of an Apostle fall on them.
Seems to me, the witch doctors of Haiti also have their "devotional tools".
Muslims say prayers and have a sacred book which they consider to be divinely inspired and directly dictated by God. You don't think that invalidates what you believe, do you? And you would be offended if someone insisted otherwise, wouldn't you?
Then try practicing the Golden Rule (that's in the Bible, BTW) and grant us the same kindness.
It's not white magic; it's not magic at all. It's Our Lord Jesus Christ choosing to use material things of this world to effect a miracle. And it's very Biblical. When Christ healed the blind man in John 9, he used mud and spittle and the pool of Siloam. Why the mud, why the spittle? Couldn't Christ have healed him instantly as the centurion's servant? "Only say the word, and my servant shall be healed". Was Christ using magic?
And then there's Acts 19:11-12:
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.Handkerchiefs touched to Paul's body were healing people and casting out evil spirits. Was Paul using magic?
A) Elijah was a prophet of God;
B) Muslim’s aren’t Christians;
C) Christian’s are under the New (and final) Covenant;
There is no Biblical support of these macabre practices.
Jesus is not walking on the earth, and Paul died years ago. Justification by men does not constitute approval by God.
Does it say somewhere in the Bible that these Godly practices will come to an end with the death of the Apostles? I never read that.
And besides, Campion already showed that the Jews were doing the same thing in the OT. So if a prophet of God can do it when Christ was not even walking the earth yet, why can't one do it after He came? Do you have any Scripture to back you up on this claim?
Third, your point about the final covenant doesn't hold water, as Paul was doing it with impunity under the very same new covenant that we are under.
I do not need to produce references, it is a matter of faith. It is not magic, but rather the sacramentals are given to us by the Church for our spiritual welfare and for use as devotion, not worship. For example, have you ever visited the Statute of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial etc? Well, you don't worship these things, but you visit them because they represent something about the United States. They are revered by what they represent, freedom to live without tyranny and also freedom to worship.
As far as the blessing of throats, if you are not Catholic, what do you care? What I may regard as silly devotions fundamentalists have, I certainty have no business commenting on things that I know nothing about. Lastly, I would never compare the sacramentals of any faith to the superstitious occult nature of witch doctors. That is just plain silly.
Are there modern day prophets? Who? Have their claims to this title been tested? If they don't pass the test, ought we stone them?
Applying the Old Covenant to the New Covenant era just doesn't wash.
The Apostles (including Paul) were given direct, supernatural revelation and power. Their authority was substantiated by God through miraculous power in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit used such people to provide us with the full revelation that He intended us to have.
Any practice, teaching or inference outside of the full revelation of the final covenant given in the New Testament is "another gospel" different than what was given through the Apostles. Conveyors of such messages ought to take heed to the warning given by Paul in Galatians 1:8
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
It seems that if Paul includes himself, the other Apostles, and ANYONE ELSE in this curse, it would also include the pope, bishops, priests, ministers, pastors, preachers, deacons, etc.
Given the serious, eternal implications of this passage, isn't it wise for each person to discover for himself what Gospel Paul and the Apostles imparted? Or shall we blindly trust an organization of corruptible men to shepherd our souls? You do what you will; I'll place my hope in the revelation of the Scripture.
Faith is not blind. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The operative words are "substance" and "evidence". Faith is based on knowledge and understanding. Yes indeed, you must provide the foundation of your faith for it to be valid.
I certainty have no business commenting on things that I know nothing about.
The idea that one cannot comment on something with which he does not hold direct experience is falacious. The "superstitious occult of witch doctors" can levy this very same argument. Quite the contrary, we are required to judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24), and to abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9).
Even still, you assume that I "know nothing about" RCC doctrine and practices. You assume wrongly.
Your question was very simply, where is the warrant for the miraculous power of inanimate objects in Sacred Scripture? The answer came back: the bones of Elisha, the mud and spittle of the blind man, and the handkerchief of Paul.
To which you made a counter claim, that all that stuff belonged only the Apostolic Age. I see no Scriptural basis whatever for that claim.
What I question are the superstitious practices of persons and organizations in complete absence of Scriptural authority and the accompanying signs of power and wonder that mark God's approval.
Waving palm branches, burning them, and rubbing the ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead may create feelings and a spiritual "aura". However, it is a far cry from the miraculous healings that substantiated the authority and Gospel teachings of the apostles.
This all begs the question, "If the Holy Spirit is not supporting these practices with His Power, and they are not condoned in Scripture, is the underlying "gospel" of God? Again, I suggest we take heed of Paul's warning in Philippians, and compare any church's teachings with that of the Apostles as recorded in the New Testament.
I never said you didn't know anything about RCC practices or doctrines, I merely implied you should try seeing in darkness what you will someday see in light.
On what do you base this supposition?
It does mean that I know God exists without having to look at references or material proofs which you seem to require.
You've got me all wrong. I agree that everyone innately knows that God exists. I base this belief upon Paul's writing in Romans 12:14-15.
14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
Clearly God's law, and therefore, knowledge of God, is written on man's heart.
Faith is believing in something you can't prove.
I prefer the Hebrews definition of faith.
I merely implied you should try seeing in darkness what you will someday see in light.
I don't know what this means. Can you elaborate?
What is being done with relics today in the Church is exactly what Paul was doing way back when.
However, it is a far cry from the miraculous healings that substantiated the authority and Gospel teachings of the apostles.
Is it? And suppose such "miraculous healings" were still going on today? And no, I don't mean Benny Hinn phony baloney stuff, but real, validated miracles where secular doctors verified that bones regrew, tumors disappeared, etc, for which there was no medical explanation. Or when the sun spins out of control in the sky at the Cova del Iria in front of tens of thousands of witnesses in 1917.
The beginning of your life takes place at birth; the beginning of your spiritual life takes place at Baptism.
I don't know what this means. Can you elaborate?
Faith requires that you live your life in darkness, that you follow Someone whom you cannot see and love someone whom you cannot touch. Your human reason tells you something like the sacramentals such as ashes or palms or throat blessings are ridiculous, or it simply makes no sense to you. Catholics know fully that sacramentals are not in themselves tools of workship, but a means of inspiring us with pious affection for God, of reminding us of the saints, and of helping us to pray more devoutly. Then if you realize that God operates from the vantage point of eternity, and that His Plan for us concerns our lives in the next world (light) as well as this one (darkness), you will be more attuned to Him through prayer etc.
I’m making no distinction whatsoever. Scripture speaks for itself. If a doctrine or practice is supported in Scripture, that’s sufficient. The problem with the defense given in this thread is the obtuse leap from Jesus’ and Paul’s activities to what certain faiths are practicing.
Ultimately, these are matters between individual adherents to these faiths and God. I am simply pointing out that these practices are grounded in superstition and/or “traditions of men”, and not Scripture. If an individual wishes to continue in these practices, that is certainly within the free will allotted by God to all men. God is the ultimate judge of each man’s eternal destiny.
Can you produce Scripture supporting this? Keep in mind that I don't necessarily disagree, I'd just like to have an Authoritative source for the statement. Also, how does this tie into your previous assertion?
Faith requires that you live your life in darkness
Peter disagrees. 1Peter 2:9:
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Your human reason tells you something like the sacramentals such as ashes or palms or throat blessings are ridiculous, or it simply makes no sense to you.
Come now, and let us reason together, Says the LORD
God does not ask us to suspend intellect. Quite the Contrary, God is Truth. The more knowledge and understanding we gain, the more real God becomes.
Catholics know fully that sacramentals are not in themselves tools of workship, but a means of inspiring us with pious affection for God...
Are we to use artificial means to inspire "spirituality" within us? By providing the strappings for an emotional response, is a spiritual feeling validated? Is it necessary to produce counterfeit sensations? How do you square this philosophy with Paul's statement in 2Corinthians 2:7.
7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
The faith described in the Bible requires obedience to God's Will as revealed through His Word. You'll find nothing that ties in our emotional state to such faith. As Paul said in Romans 10:17,
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
If one seeks faith, study God's Word.
As I say, each person is free to do and believe as he will. God has revealed the portion of His Will that He wants us to know in His Word. He requires each of us to conform to His Will, and not create a god in our image or in the image of any institution.
Give me an example of the "leap." How does a practice today differ from what Paul did.
If you read Acts 19, where this passage is documented, you will see that others who attempted to replicate the miracles of God performed through Paul by casting out demons were soundly thrashed by those very same demons.
The example you use to defend un-Scriptural practices doesn’t hold up. Surely others who wish to emulate God’s power as exercised through Paul (or any other Disciple) are just as clearly incorrect as those poor fellows who found out the hard way.
**The Apostles (including Paul) were given direct, supernatural revelation and power. Their authority was substantiated by God through miraculous power in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit used such people to provide us with the full revelation that He intended us to have.**
This is where you sola scriptura people miss out on a lot.
Apostolic — remember that word. The Catholic Church is apostolic because those powers were passed down from Christ to the Apostles and from St. Peter and the other apostles to the bishops of that day. The chain continues today — unbroken in the Catholic Church — to the present day Bishops and from them to the priests of our parishes. When a priest is ordained (also a deacon and a Bishop) the Holy Spirit is asked to enter them in a special way......so you see..........the apostolic chain is unbroken.
It really is too bad that Protestants cannot partake of these provisions straight from the mouth of Christ to St. Peter and the apostles.
God bless you. Believe!
**You didn’t read my inquiry or response well enough. Elijah aside (As I said, the OT does not apply under the New Covenant), I fully embrace the power of God displayed by Jesus and through Paul.**
The Old Testament is the foundation of the new Testament. How many Bible Studies have you done where prophecies from the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ.
Please do not be derogatory to the Jewish faith and the foundation of all Christian faiths.
Assuming this to be true (which it summarily is NOT), why don't your popes, cardinals, and bishops demonstrate the same power as the Apostles? I'd sure like to see Benny command a lame man to walk in the name of Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews notes in a number of passages that the Law is changed... that is, a New Covenant is in place, more perfect than the old one (Heb 7-10). Additionally, he states that if one chooses to live under the old law, there is no further sacrifice for sin available in it (Heb 10:26).
It is clear that the more perfect New Covenant rules God's people in this age. The old Covenant remains useful for doctrine, reproof, edification and instruction to righteousness (2Tim 3:16), but God's people are not subject to it as we are to the New Covenant. If we were, then my eating habits would change, and many a false prophet needs be stoned to death.
** (which it summarily is NOT),**
**I’d sure like to see Benny command a lame man to walk in the name of Jesus.**
First of all, his name is Pope Benedict XVI, please, some respect.
To become a saint, which many Poeps have, a person must go through a rigorous study by the Church. There are three steps which I will not go into here.
Among those steps is the proof of miracles. So don’t be surprised if Pope John Paul II becomes a saint or Pope Benedict becomes a saint.
The burden of proof lies with the one making the assertion, since it is not possible to prove a negative. And try as it might, the RCC has been unable to demonstrate their "unbroken chain" of popes from Peter. This is especially true since Peter was not even a "pope".
please, some respect
Would you have me kiss his ring :)
To become a saint
Don't know about you, but I already am! And it didn't take an act of man to make me so. Nor was any supernatural event necessary. I simply had to obey the Gospel of Christ!
Among those steps is the proof of miracles.
I'll keep my eyes open for the next report of the "blessed virgin's" image showing up on a greasy napkin or some such miraculous event.
It seems that your good attitude is fading or your patience with me is worn out. Good bye.
Probably a little of both.
And this is a good place to end it. Enough reason has been put forth. That which lies beyond reason need not be stirred.
Thanks to all for a very good debate!
Proverbs 27:17 -- As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
There you go with "un-Scriptural" again LOL.
Says who? It's right there in St. Paul. The sons of Sceva were not even using relics (at least there's no mention of it), and they were doing exorcism, so that's not even germane to our discussion here which is about miraculous healing.
You set up the criteria that only a prophet of God can heal in this way, and a prophey is confirmed by miracles. Do you still stand by that? Because I've got a laundry list of such confirmation if you're open to hearing it.
I'm not asking you to take my word, I'm challenging you to follow biblical example and search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so (Acts 17:11); and not just my words but that of your church.
Sadly, I suspect that you love your darkness more than the light (John 3:19), and that you would rather serve the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25), and will continue to choose to be cheated through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).
If you ever choose to rightly divide the Word of Truth (1Tim 2:15), God will not disappoint.
Given the eternal importance of this subject, don't you owe it to yourself to learn the Truth?
Let’s not spin off into a hundred other quotes that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. You asked for Biblical examples of people using relics and such. We provided at least three, from the time of the Jews, Christ, and St. Paul. To which you replied that those things were only supposed to endure as long as the Apostles and disciples were on earth.
But do you have any Scripture to support that argument? IMHO that opinion—that the time of miracles and healings ended with the Apostles—is a tradition purely of men for which there is absolutely no Scriptural foundation. Which, as you’ve indicated, is a bad thing for us to be doing, no?
Scripture speaks. Each person may choose to do that which is right in his own eyes (Deut 12:8) or choose to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord (Deut 13:18).
I see no future in endless debate.
My apologies if I have misunderstood. Thank you for the discussion, and may God bless you.