Ash Wednesday and Ashes on the Forehead
Posted by Ian on 10 February 2016 02:28 PM
Don’t you wish we had a Catholic infomercial channel? EWTN is great, but we could really use something to get us as excited about being Catholic as we do about a miracle cleaner that takes spots out of pets…or whatever those miracle cleaners do.
Cue the hyper-energetic spokesperson: “Are you ready, out there? It’s Ash Wednesday! And you know what that means. It’s time to fast, abstain and sacrifice your way to a better you!”
Okay. That would be a little much. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could get somewhere near that excited about Lent? It really is a golden opportunity.
It’s not like people aren’t already interested. It’s not a holy day of obligation but tons of people who NEVER go to Mass on holy days seem to turn out for Ash Wednesday.
Could it be the ashes? Maybe it’s the ashes. Kind of like getting your wrist stamped at an exclusive club.
Where did the ashes on the forehead thing come from?
Ashes come from way back. That whole “sackcloth and ashes” thing from the Old Testament? An outward sign of penitence. Jesus refers to, too. And back in the days of public penance, priests even sprinkled ashes on people’s heads on their way out of confession.
According to an article by Fr. William Saunders, “In the Middle Ages (at least by the time of the eighth century), those who were about to die were laid on the ground on top of sackcloth sprinkled with ashes. The priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, ‘Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.’
Sound familiar? Well, ashes remained popular enough to eventually be adopted as a symbol used to introduce the penitential season of Lent.
“You are dust” is pretty morbid. Don’t you think?
Well, on one hand, it’s not the happiest of thoughts, but that changes a little when you realize that your return to dust means the departure of your soul for eternity with God, and that you’re one step closer to the resurrection at the end of time. And doesn’t “dust” at least sound a little better than “dirt?”
Ash Wednesday! Already?
No matter when Lent starts, it may have caught you a little by surprise. But don’t worry—your friends at Aquinas and More are here to help. Checkout our recent blogs on Common Misconceptions About Lent and Deciding What to Do for Lent.
Even if you’re reading this after Ash Wednesday, don’t let being late to the show stop you from making the most of Lent. It’s never too late to improve your spiritual health and draw closer to God.
Happy Ash Wednesday!
Let us hear from you.
We’ve probably all seen Bill Donaghy’s “Catholic Guide to Ashes” making the rounds online. What sort of “ash tag” do you get at your parish? Let us know in the com box below.
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