This is another one of those days where I have always gone through the motions without really understanding why I was getting ashes or fasting. I understand the basic premise of fasting, but as with most things I know it goes deeper than my rudimentary understanding.
Ash Wednesday is the day when the palms from the previous year are turned to ash and placed on one’s head in the shape of a cross or sprinkled over the head. As this is being done, the priest or layperson (does this person have to be a Eucharistic Minister?) will say something along the lines of, “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return” (Genesis 3:19). Now, according to Wikipedia, after 1969, a priest might say, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15). Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.
There is more information here that is written far more coherently than I could rewrite here in the short time I have today.
Now, Ash Wednesday has always been a day that I do not look forward to. I do not like fasting. This has been something I have been trying to remedy. Catholicism Pure and Simple has a very good post up today about this sacrifice and how to change one’s way of thinking about it. This really hit home for me today as for the past week or so I have been reading about St. Thérése of Lisieux. I find her Little Way both humbling and encouraging. I will have to fight not to allow myself to keep things always little and to continue to grow, but it makes fasting and sacrifice far more tangible. It gives me a doorway to enter without wanting to give up right from the get go.
An excerpt from the linked post:
St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.
This makes the sacrifice of fasting highly tangible and the effort not daunting, but rather loving. This is how it was always meant to be, I believe, but until one can change how it is looked at, this can be difficult to achieve. I read another article, I believe at the Patheos Blog that spoke about how having the discipline to sacrifice during Lent was a form of freedom. That we are not driven by our base desires, but rather our will in denying those desires brings us freedom. I will try to find that article later and put a link up here.
I apologize for my lack of time today and this being less complete than I would like. Any thoughts or additional information would be very welcome in the comments. One thing I was not able to find (after only an admittedly short search) is how the ashes are made. I know they are made from the previous years palms but I imagine there is at least a small ceremony involved? Does any one know how this is done?
UPDATE -Here is the Patheos Post: Lent is for Everyone
Today’s Epistle and Gospel – From the Gospel,
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.