How will we be able to recognize the change to the season of Lent this year since we cannot meet in person for church services? Even outdoor services would still not allow us for the imposing of ashes.
So, Ash Wednesday and the imposition of Ashes is a church service where our being separated should not restrict our ability to mark this change of liturgical season, both for our life in church or our life in the Parish. We will, in fact, gather via Zoom meeting, our usual meeting venue in these times, to use the Proper Liturgy for Ash Wednesday at 8:00 AM and at 7:00 PM.
There is much to the Proper Liturgy for this day, more than ashes and eucharist.
There are readings, there is confession, there is the reading of:
- Psalm 51 (the most penitential of the Psalms)
- a Litany of Penitence, and
- an appeal for God’s forgiveness.
All of these aspects of the Word help us to be in a place for Ashes.
Then, there is one more aspect which can allow us to fully embrace the forms and functions of the day, you may impose ashes on yourself. As Tracey Kelly would have said, “whaaaaaaat?” Yes, you may impose Ashes on yourself. The ashes are not a technical sacrament, they are more sacramentalish, a thing where-in God is present, but not guaranteed as in the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, the essential Christian sacraments, or in the sacramental rites of Confirmation, Marriage, Unction, Reconciliation, and Ordination, the “all may, some should, but none must sacraments.
Ash Wednesday is a day where the liturgy is important enough and different enough to demand its own Proper Liturgy as defined in the Book of Common Prayer. But it is not a holy day of obligation, even in the Roman Catholic community, although, as evidenced by my time in New York City, there were very few, if any, Roman Catholics who did not get their ashes.
Finally, the question about where you might get your ashes from is from anywhere. If you have your Palms from last year’s Sunday of the Passion, burning and using those ashes on yourself is most appropriate. If you do not have those, cut a branch from your local plants, burn them, and use those ashes. Or, if there is nothing else, a local friend said to write out a Bible verse on a slip of paper, the burn the slip of paper to have ashes for applying.
One more observation concerning your ashes. You may not have a lot of them, they may be very dry, and they may blow away almost as you impose them. Do not worry, the very dryness is evocative of our own desiccation in the face of the judgement of God. All of this is appropriate and will still help you to know the essence of this season—we are dry before the face of God and we need God to bring us to fulness.
Photo credit: Tracey Kelly; vaitekune. All rights reserved ©