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What Is It About Ash Wednesday?
Catholic Exchange ^ | February 8, 2013 | RUSSELL SHAW

Posted on 02/08/2013 3:24:39 PM PST by NYer

colbert

Why is it that Ash Wednesday and Lent remain relatively popular even in highly secularized times like these? It’s a serious question that touches on matters deeper than might at first be supposed.

The popularity I speak of can be seen year after year on Ash Wednesday, when people–some of them perhaps not all that often in church–stream up the aisle to get their ashes. Not a few then return for Mass or Stations of the Cross on weekdays during Lent. How come?

The answer can found in Blessed John Henry Newman’s insistence on the supremacy of the “real” over the “unreal” in religious matters. In one of his early, Oxford sermons, Newman remarks that it’s only insofar as people grasp the meaning of disobedience and their own sinfulness that they also grasp “the blessing of the removal of sin, redemption, pardon, sanctification.” Otherwise, he says, these are “mere words.”

You might say Ash Wednesday and Lent help to make this objective reality subjectively real for us.

That’s not the case with a lot of feasts and festivals that have religious roots but, over time, have been drained of religious meaning. Think of Halloween. How many Americans today link this celebration of ghosts and goblins and Trick-or-Treat with the Christian dogma of the communion of saints? Even Christmas is in danger of suffering this fate–the great feast of the Incarnation all but submerged in commercialization and holiday schlock.

But it’s a different story with Lent. Yes, the Easter bunnies and chicks are out in force, but Ash Wednesday and Lent resist sentimentalization by the greeting card people and commercialization by sellers of consumer goods. After all, it’s hard to find a bright, chirpy greeting or a slogan for hawking merchandise well suited to a season of sorrow for sin. “You’ll look great in ashes”? “Be the first in your neighborhood to do penance”? It doesn’t sound quite right.

ash wednesday 2

But the words spoken at the imposition of ashes do: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Or the only slightly less apposite: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Stark, uncompromising,admirably real.

In a way, we have here a kind of paraliturgy of prudence. Prudence? Indeed yes. Prudence in the classical sense that you find in an aphorism from the Christian Middle Ages which the Thomistic philosopher Josef Pieper quotes: “A man is wise when all things taste to him as they really are.”

Prudence is the virtue that confers that highly desirable accuracy of “taste”–realistic perception–in the moral sphere. It’s the virtue by which the truth, the reality, of God and the world become, as Pieper says, “the measure and standard for one’s own desire and action.”

And this or something like it is something whose presence people intuit in Ash Wednesday and Lent and what brings them back year after year so as to “taste”–to experience–life-giving contact with the deep reality of mortality, sin, redemption, and the human condition. Not so coincidentally, such people also are seeking an antidote to the grim escapism of secular America’s entertainment culture and its obsessive fixation on everything and anything except what is real.

“We are all sinners,” people think to themselves as they receive the ashes or make the stations, “we are all going to die. Help us, Lord, help!” This year, like so many other years before, the season of penance promises to point us in the right direction for obtaining that help. Have a realistic Lent.


TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Religion & Culture; Worship
KEYWORDS: ashes; lent

1 posted on 02/08/2013 3:24:46 PM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
When does Lent begin and how are the days calculated?

Catholics familiar only with the Latin Church may be surprised to learn that Ash Wednesday and its customs exist only in the Western church. The Eastern churches have other ways of counting the days of Lent, and of beginning this Great Fast.

The RC Church counts Holy Week as part of the Lenten Fast, but not the Sundays during the Lenten season. Therefore, in about the 8th Century, it was necessary to add four days to the beginning of Lent to bring the number of days up to the traditional 40. This was the origin of Ash Wednesday.

The Eastern Churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) consider Holy Week as a separate unit with its own Fasting and Abstinence requirements, not technically included in the Great Lent. Lent liturgically concludes on the evening of the 6th Friday of Great Lent, the vigil of Lazarus Saturday. Although we do not fast on Saturdays and Sundays, we do continue to abstain from certain kinds of foods on the Fridays of Lent. The Saturdays & Sundays of the Great Fast are counted in the total of days, thus bringing the number up to 40, counted from Ash Monday, the first day of Great Lent.

For some of us, Lent begins on Monday!

2 posted on 02/08/2013 3:26:59 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer
Yeah, but whoever heard of Dimanche Gras?
3 posted on 02/08/2013 3:40:01 PM PST by mikrofon (+ Lenten BUMP +)
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To: NYer
As usual, 0bama didn't bother to read the whole memo.


4 posted on 02/08/2013 3:49:51 PM PST by TigersEye (The irresponsible should not be leading the responsible.)
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To: NYer

Ash Wednesday is NOT a holy day of obligation. Catholics do not need to go church this day.

But strangely it is very very popular. A priest and I laughed about this years ago. It has to be about the ashes and demonstrating to others your faith.


5 posted on 02/08/2013 4:35:30 PM PST by RadiationRomeo (Step into my mind and glimpse the madness that is me)
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To: RadiationRomeo
"It has to be about the ashes and demonstrating to others your faith."
It's More about humbling yourself before God.
6 posted on 02/08/2013 4:53:35 PM PST by NewCenturions
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To: NewCenturions; Sioux-san; Youaskedforit; KirbDog; Teófilo; mojo114; malkee; missingwv; HalfIrish; .
+

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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

7 posted on 02/08/2013 4:59:29 PM PST by narses
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To: NewCenturions; Sioux-san; Youaskedforit; KirbDog; Teófilo; mojo114; malkee; missingwv; HalfIrish; .
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

8 posted on 02/08/2013 4:59:56 PM PST by narses
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To: NewCenturions; Sioux-san; Youaskedforit; KirbDog; Teófilo; mojo114; malkee; missingwv; HalfIrish; .
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

9 posted on 02/08/2013 5:00:54 PM PST by narses
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To: NYer

That’s a really interesting question, since it hinges on what exactly it is about observances that appeals to the “semi-faithful”, the people who are normally lukewarm about such things.

I think one thing you have to note is that Ash Wednesday is the most visible of the Catholic holidays, where the individual observant is concerned. When you go about your day on Palm Sunday, or All Saint’s Day, nobody knows by looking at you whether you went to mass. On Ash Wednesday though, especially in largely Catholic communities, everyone can see who are the lazy ones who didn’t bother to get down to church. So, I think simple shame is a part of why the lukewarm folks get down there on that particular day.


10 posted on 02/08/2013 5:03:14 PM PST by Boogieman
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To: NYer

I’m going to a church festival tomorrow, a St. Valentine’s day card party and luncheon that is also kind of a pre-Lent kickoff. If snowy weather would cause a cancellation, as happened several years ago when we got two feet of snow, the event would be rescheduled AFTER Lent was over. No partying in church during the solemn Lenten season and no serving of meat dishes.


11 posted on 02/08/2013 5:07:50 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: RadiationRomeo

After Christmas and Easter, Ash Wednesday is the most popular day in the Catholic Church.


12 posted on 02/08/2013 7:10:59 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Boogieman

Many non-Catholics come to Mass on Ash Wednesday to have ashes put on their foreheads.

All in all, I think Ash Wednesday is a favorite among all Christians.


13 posted on 02/08/2013 7:12:44 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
What Is It About Ash Wednesday?
"When you fast. . .": An Ash Wednesday Post

Questions About Keeping the Ashes on Out in Public
Ash Wednesday in the Public Square (the phenomenon that draws in so many)
Ash Wednesday: It's Not Just For Catholics Anymore
Luxury hotel manager fired after making vulgar Ash Wednesday remarks
New York Palace Hotel boss Niklaus Leuenberger gets the door after Ash Wednesday slur
Homily for February 25, 2009 - Ash Wednesday - We just can’t live without ashes!
Remember, O Man [Ash Wednesday]
Ash Wednesday
The Day After Fat Tuesday [Ash Wednesday, Beginning of Lent]
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast-Family observance Lenten season [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]

Other Christians embrace Lent: "We are reclaiming a sense of history"
More turn to Ash Wednesday
Being Catholic: Sacred Things, Ashes
Ash Wednesday
Where does Ash Wednesday get its ashes?
Every Ash Wednesday comes the question about ashes: to burn or to buy?
Pope will preside at Ash Wednesday Mass, procession; act will renew ancient tradition
Ash Wednesday: Preparing For Easter
Ash Wednesday: Our Shifting Understanding of Lent
Ash Wednesday

14 posted on 02/08/2013 7:19:23 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Truly a growing sign of the need and importance of Christian unity.


15 posted on 02/09/2013 3:09:19 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: NYer

Read also that the Christians in the Holy Land have decided to do one Lent and one Easter. May that practice spread to the whole of the global Christian community.


16 posted on 02/09/2013 3:12:24 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: NYer

The only thing I do not like about this coming Lent is that it is starting early, plus dealing with the after effects of this blizzard.


17 posted on 02/09/2013 3:19:02 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: TigersEye

LOL Beelzebub aka Lord of the flys. He knows how to annoint his own.


18 posted on 02/09/2013 12:00:36 PM PST by Varda
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To: NYer

Everything about my Catholic Faith bears out this truth - you get out of it way more than you put in. For me Ash Wednesday is all about the beginning of Lent and as I age each Lent seems to be more and more fruitful. A great time for self-examination, more prayer, sacrifices (fasting) I still find a few things to give up. There have been a couple of years that I gave up Free Republic - that was tough at first but then no big deal. God does call us to sacrifice, something many of us do not like to do surrounded by all the indulgences in our society.


19 posted on 02/09/2013 12:33:03 PM PST by MomwithHope (Buy and read Ameritopia by Mark Levin!)
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To: MomwithHope; Salvation
A great time for self-examination, more prayer, sacrifices (fasting) I still find a few things to give up.

"Giving up" is a fairly common practice that, I believe, derives from our childhood introduction to Lent. Now that we are adults, there are far broader opportunities to deepen our faith and grow closer to Christ. Each year, I select a book to read for greater understanding and reflection. One of my favorites is:

The author is Fr. Mark Gruber, a Benedictine monk and an associate professor of anthropology at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Written as a journal, Journey Back to Eden recounts Mark Gruber's year of spiritual discovery among the austere desert monasteries of Egypt. His journey began almost accidentally as part of his doctoral research, but it became more, much more. His account - entertaining, poignant, and spiritually challenging - takes us back to the times of St. Anthony and the ancient Desert Fathers.

The book has a rating of 5 stars, the maximum, as calculated by those who have read it. Some of the reviews are very detailed but all are enthusiastic. One reviewer writes: "It's very hard to put down this book! If I didn't have to, I think I would have read it straight through. He does a spectacular job of communicating how different the eastern spirituality is from the west and what we are missing with a focus on "social justice" ... which is nothing other than socialism. He reveals what a profound prayer life can mean. I can understand how much he must miss being there."

Another excellent book, written by Archbishop Sheen is:

One reviewer writes: "Fulton Sheen's book Life of Christ is a literary masterpiece. Sheen brilliantly navigates through the life of our Lord and highlights some of the more touching moments, while really bringing to life the moments that often get overlooked. Most importantly, this book will help you to nurture and inculcate a deeper and more profound love for Jesus Christ." This book has also been rated with the maximum of 5 stars. It is a gem!

There have been a couple of years that I gave up Free Republic - that was tough at first but then no big deal.

While I can appreciate such a decision based on the angst one can experience on some of these threads, I would recommend you reconsider that position and place yourself on freeper Salvation's ping list. Throughout Lent, Salvation posts daily prayers, readings, reflections and other spiritual guidelines for the lenten journey. You don't want to miss these as they will also deepen your relationship with Christ. You may have to exercise a more judicious approach, ignoring threads that distract you from the goal.

Consider tuning into EWTN during Lent. At 3pm ET, they offer the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, followed by a short, yet excellent, visit to one of the Lenten Station Churches. In the span of those 10 minutes, you will gain an historical perspective of these ancient churches.

Lent is a time for introspection. Enjoy it!

20 posted on 02/09/2013 1:35:23 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: MomwithHope

The practice of humilty and sacrifice is very important not only spiritually but also practically. Being able to turn away from things you otherwise enjoy is incredibly empowering. Without discipline we become slaves to our impulses and circumstances. Show me a disciplined person and I’ll show you a successfull person. Like my Catholic mother always told me, “You don’t do what you want to do, you do what have to do.” So true!


21 posted on 02/09/2013 1:37:14 PM PST by mgist
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To: NYer

I am reading Interior Castle by St. Theresa for the 3rd time. It’s been awhile.


22 posted on 02/09/2013 6:20:00 PM PST by MomwithHope (Buy and read Ameritopia by Mark Levin!)
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