So, I was buying my Banana Nut Muffin from Great Harvest this morning and noticed a lady and her daughter with ashes on their forehead. I had forgotten it was "Ash Wednesday" mostly because…uh…I don’t celebrate it. To be honest, I don’t even know all the details of this ritual. The bank I used to work at was right across the street from a Catholic Church. So people would come in all day with the ash on their foreheads. I guess this could be true of any religious group, but some of the same people who were yelling at me the day before, constantly complaining, demanding special treatment or always trying to get something free from me were now trying to prove to me their religious piousness by putting some burnt palm branches on their forehead for all the world to see. I know that in every religious group there are the good and the bad, so I know I can’t make a couple people a standard for the whole group.
It was funny though, this other lady in the bakery turned to "Ash" lady and said, "oh…where did you get that?" "Ash" responded, oh, just go over to this church (she points) and you can get it. It’s really quick, you don’t even have to sit through a whole mass." I wonder if she even knows what Ash Wednesday means.
I didn’t know where else to go so here’s what Wikipedia says:
At Masses and services of worship on this day, worshippers are blessed with ashes by the celebrating priest or minister. The priest or minister marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes, in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until washing it off after sundown. In many Christian churches, the minister of ashes may also be a layperson or non-clergyman. The symbolism echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ash over one’s head signifying repentance before God (as related in the Bible). The priest or minister offers the worshipper an instruction while applying the ashes. These are three examples:
- "Remember, man, that you are dust
- And unto dust you shall return."
- (Latin: Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.)
- This wording comes from Genesis 3:19.
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."
- "Repent, and hear the good news."
So, that doesn’t help me out too much. To be really honest, the first thing that my mind thinks of when I see all these people with the Ash on their head, is "pharisee". It reminds me of this verse in Matthew 6:
5"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Why do they have to wear it out in public all day? Maybe it is for humiliation like what the penance used to be back in the days of Roman rule. This is from wikipedia also:
In a sacramental understanding of the term, "penance" applies to the whole activity from confession to absolution. Generally speaking, however, it is used to characterize the works of satisfaction imposed or recommended by the priest on or to the penitent. Traditionally, penance has been viewed as a punishment (the Latin poena, the root of pen(it) ance, means "punishment"), and varying with the character and heinousness of the offences committed. In the feudal era "doing penance" often involved severe and/or public discipline, which could be both harsh and humiliating but was considered edifying. Public penances have, however, long been abolished.
I also don’t get the whole Lent thing. Why do Catholics do this? Is there anywhere in the Bible that it talks about this or is it just a ritual that Rome created? Or is it for most people how The Cross Movement (rap group) says, "Without Christ, men ain’t spiritual · they get caught up in a bunch of spare rituals."?
Your turn, do you have any intelligible words for or against Ash Wednesday, Lent or anything related?