Skip to comments.Being Catholic: Sacred Things, Ashes
Posted on 04/22/2007 8:37:13 PM PDT by Salvation
Ecclesiasticus 7:40 "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin." -- or as one would say in Latin, "Hodie mihi, cras tibi" ("Today me, tomorrow you"). They are a liturgical "memento mori." The ashes are made by the burning of palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The blessing of the ashes begins with an antiphon and a verse of a psalm begging God's grace and mercy. Then come four prayers which express what the ashes symbolize and how they are to be seen and used by us: We make no response to these words; we simply return to our pews.
In the 17th. c., a style of painting known as "vanitas painting" became popular (see above). This style included elements that represented temporal bounty - flowers, fruits, etc., and symbols of riches, such as gold and jewels. These gorgeous gifts from God were then juxtaposed with symbols that showed the reality of death, usually a skull, or an hourglasses that symbolized the passage of time.
The point of this style is the moral of which Ecclesiasticus 1 reminds us, "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh..." In other words, the things of this world are transient, and Christians must always keep one eye on the world to come.
Recalling this Truth is one of the principles behind the use of ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten Season of penance: to remind us that we are mortal, subject to the rot and decay our Western culture now desperately tries to euphemize away, and that we are radically dependent on -- solely dependent on -- Jesus Christ to overcome this fate.
They are like a yearly reading of the tombstone inscribed with:
Remember friends as you pass by,
as you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you must be.
Prepare for death and follow me.
In Genesis 3:19 we hear God tell us "for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return," but nowadays, when someone dies, they are rushed from deathbed to funeral home to be embalmed and to be worked over by a make-up artist so that that "dusty reality" is hidden from us. Their deaths are spoken of as almost an embarrassment; "he passed," they say, or "he is no longer with us." These comforting but sterile luxuries weren't an option in the past when plagues felled so many people that there weren't enough survivors to bury them, when bodies had to be stored all winter until the ground was soft enough to dig, when most of the children a woman bore died before they were able to grow up. In our culture, with our medicines and "funeral sciences," we are afraid to look at death, and we are a poorer people because of it. No matter how long science can prolong life, no matter how much embalming fluid is pumped into a corpse, Nature will have her way. This is the hideous Truth. And when Nature has her way, we can either rest in the knowledge that the ultimate Victor is Christ, Our Lord, Who walked out of His tomb 2,000 years ago and offers resurrection to us, or we can believe that decay is all that is left. This is the meaning of Ash Wednesday.
Ashes are used, too, to express the penitence necessary to come to Christ so that we can experience bodily resurrection at the End of the Age.
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.
The Blessing and Disposition of the Ashes
1. To be a spiritual help for all who confess their sins.
2. To secure pardon of sins for those who receive the ashes.
3. To give us the spirit of contrition.
4. To give us the grace and strength to do penance.
After the priest sprinkles the ashes with holy water and incenses them, he puts some on his own head, and then on the heads of those present, the head being the seat of pride. He puts them on our foreheads in the shape of a Cross to remind us of our hope, and as he does so, he says the words of Genesis 3:
Meménto, homo, quia pulvis es, et in púlverem revertéris (Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return).
Following the disposition of the ashes come two Antiphons and a Response. Then the priest says another prayer for protection in the coming combat.
After we leave the church, we leave the ashes on our foreheads until they wear off naturally from the course of the day's activities. They are a public witness to those things our society does not wish to embrace: the reality of death, and the hope of resurrection in Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Note: another (informal) use of ashes in the Church is the saving of ashes from the fire built on the Eve of the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist (23 June) to mix with water to bless the sick.
Ecclesiasticus 7:40 "In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin."
-- or as one would say in Latin, "Hodie mihi, cras tibi" ("Today me, tomorrow you"). They are a liturgical "memento mori."
The ashes are made by the burning of palms from last year's Palm Sunday. The blessing of the ashes begins with an antiphon and a verse of a psalm begging God's grace and mercy. Then come four prayers which express what the ashes symbolize and how they are to be seen and used by us:
We make no response to these words; we simply return to our pews.
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Golly! With your laundry list of “things holy to catholics” you’re just asking for someone to raise the Idol Worship discussion!
pertaining to or connected with religion
devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated
These are devotional tools, not things we worship.
I like the “memento mori” theme. It gives me perspective.
Seems to me, the witch doctors of Haiti also have their "devotional tools". There seems to be an awful lot non-Scriptural mumbo-jumbo superstition going on here.
BTW, maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any mention of the "devotional tools" used on St. Blaise's day. Care to explain how placing two candles (in the shape of a cross, of course) against my throat and then speaking an incantation (er, prayer) will keep those nasty winter sore throats away?
Can you produce Biblical references showing where any of this "white magic" is authorized!
no doubt you would take exception to someone suggesting you look at a bronze serpent to heal snake bites
In this Age? Yes.
**With your laundry list of things holy to catholics**
I don’t think so. These things are to be added to a celebration to give meaning to it. Or more meaning to it.
For example, on Ash Wednesday — “Remember, man, thou art dust and into dust thou shall return.”
Just the truth. Thanks for your input.
By this logic one could construct a golden lamb and call it sacred. After all, Jesus was the Lamb of God. Similarly, one could erect an image of Jesus as a shepherd and worship it; after all, He was "the good shepherd. In the extreme, one could even erect a figure of Christ on a cross call it sacred; after all, He hung there to pay for our sins.
Let's review Exodus 20:4-5
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,
Continue reading in the Old Testament.
Many people, as an act of repentance, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes and fasted.
Please do not concentrate on just one verse when there are many others that contradict—I don’t have an online concordance that I like so I can’t quote chapter and verse to you — but the acts of these people in the Old Testament are there. So what is so terrivle about the act of repentance in getting a cross marked on one’s forehead with askes?
Look at the facts as presented in the Bible, please. ALL the facts, not just one verse.
You don't really know your Bible very well, do you?
Try people being healed by touching Elijah's bones, and people being healed by having the shadow of an Apostle fall on them.
Seems to me, the witch doctors of Haiti also have their "devotional tools".
Muslims say prayers and have a sacred book which they consider to be divinely inspired and directly dictated by God. You don't think that invalidates what you believe, do you? And you would be offended if someone insisted otherwise, wouldn't you?
Then try practicing the Golden Rule (that's in the Bible, BTW) and grant us the same kindness.
It's not white magic; it's not magic at all. It's Our Lord Jesus Christ choosing to use material things of this world to effect a miracle. And it's very Biblical. When Christ healed the blind man in John 9, he used mud and spittle and the pool of Siloam. Why the mud, why the spittle? Couldn't Christ have healed him instantly as the centurion's servant? "Only say the word, and my servant shall be healed". Was Christ using magic?
And then there's Acts 19:11-12:
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.Handkerchiefs touched to Paul's body were healing people and casting out evil spirits. Was Paul using magic?
A) Elijah was a prophet of God;
B) Muslim’s aren’t Christians;
C) Christian’s are under the New (and final) Covenant;
There is no Biblical support of these macabre practices.
Jesus is not walking on the earth, and Paul died years ago. Justification by men does not constitute approval by God.
Does it say somewhere in the Bible that these Godly practices will come to an end with the death of the Apostles? I never read that.
And besides, Campion already showed that the Jews were doing the same thing in the OT. So if a prophet of God can do it when Christ was not even walking the earth yet, why can't one do it after He came? Do you have any Scripture to back you up on this claim?
Third, your point about the final covenant doesn't hold water, as Paul was doing it with impunity under the very same new covenant that we are under.
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