In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Ash Wednesday -“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return”.
It’s very good to be reminded that we’re moral. Everyone dies, the question then will you be raised up to new life or a much warmer spot with a front row to flames?
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
I’m not one for sackcloth, perhaps the hair shirt will come back in vogue. Get Madoma perhaps she can set the trend;~)
Ashes have since Moses time been a symbol of repentance. One should remember that both the towns mentioned in Luke’s Gospel had Jesus who lived there among them and performed miracles. So just because you have heard the mesage doesn’t mean you’ve changed your heart. The operative word for lent is reflection [primarily inward] after review it’s amazing how much more Christian your neighbors and co-workers seem.
The Europeans seem to use the top of the head for the ashes, I am guessing this is likely the older tradition following Nehemiah 9:1-
On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites gathered together fasting and in sackcloth, their heads covered with dust.
Those Europeans are so legalistic and literal;>)
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent for Catholic the world over. This is normally a great ice-breaker for Catholics to express their faith with others and to let them know that Lent has begun. I’ve never been one to inquire from folks if they are saved. I’ve always believed in the motto attributed to St. Francis “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words”. However I’ve misapplied this standard as well. “If necessary” is for the individual your encountering not what time constrains I’m living under.
It was interesting this year for me, because I am currently working on the mid-shift. Normally I go to the evening service and go straight home or perhaps I might stop off at the store to pick up some milk & bread for the family for breakfast. Living in the south USA, one will get some strange looks from folks. Others will be kind enough to advise me that I have some dirt on my forehead. After the service tonight I when to work with ashes. I was wondering if this was going to be an encounter with a potentially PC management and whether I would be asked to wipe off the ashes. I prayed that this would not occur, but if it had I was prepared to make a stand on the issue. I have no idea why, but stand I would. Hopefully this would not have to blow up into a legal battle, and I thought about the lack of finances to support such a venture if it came to it and gee I should have spoken to my wife before I chose to make a stand on it. I know she’d support me, but I didn’t feel right about the choice without consulting her first.
A few of my employees pointed out to me that I had dirt on my forehead with the standard non-verbal arm to forehead an wipe back and forth routine. I really wanted to play innocent as if I had no idea what they were talking about, but I simply ignored them. Another employee simply looked at me with a puzzled look, but thought better of asking me or advsing me to wash my face. A co-worker of mine, who was born and raised in the SBC, but who that communion would call a back-slider, knew right away what the mark on my forehead was and gave me a sneer and offered to get a wet nap and wipe it off for me. Finally an employee who knew I was Catholic connected the dots and inquired “Is it Ash Wednesday?”. Why yes it is , I said it was the start of Lent and a time of personal reflection for myself and seeking a way to improve my walk with the Lord. I didn’t want to go further then that because being in a gov’t job I didn’t want my employees to think I was preaching to them or because I was their boss that they would be forced to listen.
Later that evening I had an employee who came up and admitted that they were Catholic and felt ashamed that they had wiped off their ashes prior to coming to work. I said I didn’t know why they felt shamed, it was a personal choice and was glad they were beginning lent as well. Another was a fallen away Catholic and he felt like he had missed out on something and may give something up for lent as well (but won’t consider attending church on a regular basis). Finally I had a boss who simply wanted to know what Lent was all about, so he could grasp a better understanding of his employees.
Finally I haven’t seen anything in bloggdom addressing where the ashes come from which my priest failed to mention either tonight. I’ve always felt this is the key link in the process. For those that don’t know the ashes are taken from the palm’s used in last years Palm Sunday service.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?” And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
The symbolism is that we proclaim Jesus is Lord, prophet & King just like the crowds did back them. They were all band-wagoners, caught up in the moment. It’s these same folks who in 4 days shouted for His death.
The lenten ashes for me recall how I sing(ok, I can’t sing, that’s just an opportunity for others to endure penance by listening to me) Hosanna in the Highest during the Liturgy, but how I have failed Him and those I care for in so many ways, just as those people fail Christ. But unlike the people in the Gospel reading, I have the chance to walk with our Lord during the stations of the cross, to repent and even use a few words when necessary.