Ash Wednesday – 14 February 2018
Joel 2:12-18, 2 Corinthians 5:20 — 6:2, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
At the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, ashes are blessed during Mass, after the homily. The blessed ashes are then “imposed” on the faithful as a sign of conversion, penance, fasting and human mortality. The ashes are blessed at least during the first Mass of the day but they may also be imposed during all the Masses of the day, after the homily and even outside the time of Mass to meet the needs of the faithful. Priests or deacons normally impart this sacramental but instituted acolytes, other extraordinary ministers or designated lay people may be delegated to impart ashes, if the bishop judges that this is necessary. The ashes are made from the palms used at the previous Passion Sunday ceremonies. …— Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Msgr. Peter J Elliott
The act of putting on ashes symbolises fragility and mortality and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolise that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptised are called during Lent. — Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
From the very early times the commemoration of the approach of Christ’s passion and death was observed by a period of self-denial. St Athanasius in the year 339 enjoined upon the people of Alexandria the 40 days’ fast he saw practised in Rome and elsewhere, “to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days.” On Ash Wednesday in the early days, the Pope went barefoot to St Sabina’s in Rome “to begin with holy fasts the exercises of Christian warfare, that as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial.
“In the course of this trial of forty days, which our weakness only finds long, we shall not be deprived of our Saviour’s presence. He has preceded and outpaced us on the royal road. He has tried it and accomplished its course before us, in order to answer, by His example, the excuses and arguments our self-indulgence or pride may urge. Let us accept the lesson fully and so arrive at an understanding of the law of expiation. “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is drawing near.” Let us open our heart to this appeal, that the Saviour may not be compelled to awake us from our lethargy by the terrible threat He employed on another occasion: “If you do not repent you shall all perish.”...Abbot Dom Prosper Gueranger
“The enormity of the fact that Christ has, on our behalf, already taken the most extreme punishment upon Himself, should move us, not to leave Him isolated. It should also inspire us to rejoice that another has taken our place in representing sin before God – for not to rejoice at that, would be a further enormity. Instead of leaving Him alone, we should be moved to enter into His suffering for us, doing together with Him, what little we can do, to atone for the world’s sin!”…Hans Urs von Balthasar “Light of the World”
ACT OF CONTRITION
Forgive my sins, O my God, forgive my sins:
the sins of youth,
the sins of age;
the sins of my soul
and the sins of my body;
the sins which, through frailty, I have committed;
my deliberate and grievous sins,
the sins I know and the sins I do not know,
the sins I have laboured so long to hide from others,
that now they are hidden from my own memory;
let me be absolved from all these iniquities
and delivered from the bond of all these evils,
by the Life, Passion, and Death
of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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