What do you think?

Ash20wednesday 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.

or

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

or

"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?

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13 comments

  1. no, nothin’ intelligible…just a funny story that happened to me once (no, not when i was little, actually only a couple of years ago). i too, had forgotten it was ash wednesday & i was at the grocery store and saw a lady with a black smudge on her forehead (ashes), and i tell her, “excuse me, you have something on your forehead”. i forgot exactly what she said, i think she just shook her head and walked off & later that day i finally did realize that it was ash wednesday…oops. hey, i was just trying to help.

  2. True there are some people who use Ash Wed as a time to renew their “Heaven Club Card” (in addition to Christmas and Easter). But for most Catholics (myself included) it is an important day of the year. True Catholics are not trying to prove their piousness by wearing ashes…it serves as a reminder (how often do you look in a mirror?) that we are entering a time of spiritual introspection and sacrifice as Jesus did for 40 days before he began his ministry. The ashes are to remind us of our mortality as the above stated verse from Genesis tells us. Lent is renewing your bond with God before we celebrate Christ rising from the dead. It teaches discipline and sacrifice and is set at the beginning of spring when God’s great earth is also preparing itself for renewal and growth. Penance has nothing to do with the day. That is a seperate personal event when one goes before a priest and confesses one’s sins. Why go to a priest? You don’t have to…but admitting one’s sins to another man teaches accountability and humiltiy much like admitting your flaws to a group of men during Bible study. Penance is the time of reflection after confession where you spend quiet time alone with God and ask him for strength and guidance. There are two main teachings during Ash Wed. One is use the ashes as an opportunity to minister to others…when asked what they are, state with pride that you are remembering Jesus’ scrifices and preparing for the day He saved us all. Second, we are reminded NOT to showboat so to speak.The verse from Matthew 6 is a key reading of the service that reminds us who not to be. Frankly I feel Evangelicals have a huge issue with this as well, exactly why I have never taken to their services. You see this as a ritual, and it is, but it is not a product of Rome. it is a tradition that Jesus’ disciples practiced themselves. Is it wrong to enjoy a tradition just because the Bible doesn’t directly refer to it? I’d surmise that EV’s and all their productions such as dunking people in water as a rock band hammers forth is a silly ritual that makes people get caught up in the spectacle instead of the meaning of the event. Ash Wednesday is yet another Catholic Day that people love to bash and snicker at. We are all on the same page, working towards being better humans. I grow weary of being told by EV’s at Bible Studies that there is only one path to salvation (and by the way we are building a 5,000 square foot church – can you please direct your tithings so we can get it built?)I’m Catholic, proud, and just trying to be a good Christian. Try Lent out…give something up for 40 days. Your Wii perhaps? It’s good for the soul.
    BTW – I know how these posts go. I had a smile on my face writing this and meant no ill will – just expressing my thoughts with a touch of dry humor.

  3. As far as walking around with ashes on your head, I have been told that you aren’t supposed to wipe them off but they are to wear off. Now I have been an on again/off again Lent keeper since junior high. I am a Protestant but I love the meaning. It is to represent the time in the wilderness that Christ was tempted. You are supposed to give up something that isn’t needed but a treat or indulgence. During that time, every time you want that thing you think of Christ and His sacrifice. In the past I have given up caffeine, chocolate and certain tv shows.

  4. I remember going to Catholic school in Junior High and having to stand in line for like 30 minutes during lunch hour to get those ash thingies on my forhead – I had no clue what they were for and no one ever told me (they just told me to get it so I don’t get in trouble with the Brothers). The only kid that didn’t have to get them was some Buddhist foreign exchange student – I always thought he was lucky because he never had to go to mass or do any of that stuff. Also, on Fridays during Lent the cafeteria wouldn’t serve anything but fish sticks. Why fish but not pork or burger or chicken? I was really confused by the whole thing. I guess a lot of people take for granted their traditions and don’t try to expalin to others or understand them for themselves.
    Hey Brian, love the new pics you’ve been posting with your new camera – they’re quite good. I’ve been doing a little photography myself. You have a good eye! How do you like Flickr?

  5. i really dont know, living in Northern Ireland doesnt make this easy either, because if i say what i believe i would be accused of being sectarian, which i am not… thats on the whole Roman Catholic/Christianity thing, on the ashes thing, i dont really know… the catholic chaplaincy at my university wer doing it today, but the guys walkin past with crosses werent “devout” catholics, to be honest i think a lot of them do it because it is the religious catholic thing to do… like so many things (not just in the RC church, in many protestant churches too) its just dead formal religion, end of rant…

  6. i really dont know, living in Northern Ireland doesnt make this easy either, because if i say what i believe i would be accused of being sectarian, which i am not… thats on the whole Roman Catholic/Christianity thing, on the ashes thing, i dont really know… the catholic chaplaincy at my university wer doing it today, but the guys walkin past with crosses werent “devout” catholics, to be honest i think a lot of them do it because it is the religious catholic thing to do… like so many things (not just in the RC church, in many protestant churches too) its just dead formal religion, end of rant…

  7. kristi and connor. i know that you guys aren’t blog beginner’s and typepad was being weird so you posted multiple times. But, I like it that it says 9 comments, oh wait 10 now. so i’m not going to delete them!

  8. Holy crap. Who would have thought that talking about ash would generate so many comments. Dont have much to say here. I just remember doing it every year growing up thinking it was weird. Every one in Mexico dit it so it was not strange. Here, it is interesting seeing people walk around with a big dust spot on their foreheads. I never really followed Lent. My dad was a butcher and I loved meat too much. Plus, I saw my grandma giving up sweets for lent while she smoked and drank the whole time. I decided just to be a good person and eat whatever I wanted.

  9. Our family looks forward to receiving our ashes on Ash Wednesday. The rest of our day is spent witnessing for Jesus Christ, not trying to “wear them as a holier than thou” symbol. When arriving to a check out line and being told, “You have something on your forehead.” What an open door to be able to walk right through and let others know of our Savior! So, my friend, from the heart of a devout Roman Catholic, while others may look at it like we are trying to “be seen by others” (you=judgment), we are just happy to be able to wear our ashes as a symbol of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s love for us and to be able to share that love with others.

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