Ashes are a sacramental.
Sacramentals= from Baltimore Catechism is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sins.
Christians who had committed grave faults, as a sign of contrition to the community, following ancient Jewish practice, put on hairshirts/sackcloths and ashes.
Our sins always have a communal aspect to them. Flood of Noah shows clearly the reach that sin has in society. It is honest to acknowledge our part in sin with the ashes that affects others.
Don’t fast like the pagans. Jesus uses non-sequiturs to confuse the wise.
Why a public display of penitence? Does this go against the Lord’s clear words of not letting anyone know you are fasting? Mat 6:16-18 Jesus is using hyperbole, a common rabbinical teaching tool. He also said to pluck our eye if sin, cut off hand, etc…
Jesus himself fasted Mat 4:1-2 following the example of
Is 58:3-6 “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
Ashes should not be an occasion of hypocrisy, this is what Jesus is talking against.
My fast is not your fast. Balance personal fast with charity towards another. This is an individual response which is unique. Receive in humility.
Ex/ Veganism as extraordinary virtue but others suffer their veganism. Fasting is interior cleansing. If all about exterior, whitewashed sepulcher.
Ex/ Peter, receive what is given to you otherwise it is vain.
Ex/ Birthdays in middle of Lent. Wide latitude must approached with humility. Christ works through us. Apart from Him we can do nothing.
Daniel found favor with ashes and sackcloth because of his faithfulness to God.
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. . . . While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God; while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and he said to me, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision” (Dan. 9:3-23).
Pray and sacrifice for ourselves and communally, we draw the angelic company which swiftly comes to our aid which leads to better understanding as missionaries to the world.
Moments of mortification, intentional privation, makes one sympathetic to the hungry and sorrowful but enlivens our own senses to the simple pleasures
Appreciate whatever meal, selective goes to gratitude
Put aside unnecessary wants and recognize authentic needs which can be filled simply.
Ash Wednesday is from a liturgical point of view on of the most important days of the year. It begins the great season of Lent. What was once only for public penances has been extended to all the faithful. We are all in need of public penance because we have all fallen short of the glory of the Lord.
Ancient prayers of blessing over the ashes “Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent… bless these sashes, that they may be a remedy to all who invoke Thy Name… O God who desirest not the death but the conversion of sinners, look in kindness upon our human frailty …. And bless those ashes, so that we, who know ourselves to be but ashes… and that we must return to dust, may deserve to obtain pardon and rewards offered to the penitent.
Stark reminder we are ashes and shall return.
Words EO and NO changed and NO are unmemorable.