Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians on Ash Wednesday, either by being sprinkled over their heads or, in English-speaking countries, more often by being marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. The words (based on Genesis 3:19) used traditionally to accompany this gesture are, “Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
” (“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”) This custom is credited to Pope Gregory I the Great (c. 540–604). In the 1969 revision of the Roman Rite, an alternative formula (based on Mark 1:15) was introduced and given first place “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” and the older formula was translated as “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
” The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time.
Various manners of placing the ashes on worshippers’ heads are in use within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the two most common being to use the ashes to make a cross on the forehead and sprinkling the ashes over the crown of the head.
Originally, the ashes were strewn over men’s heads, but, probably because women had their heads covered in church, were placed on the foreheads of women. In the Catholic Church the manner of imposing ashes depends largely on local custom, since no fixed rule has been laid down. Although the account of Ælfric of Eynsham shows that in about the year 1000 the ashes were “strewn” on the head, the marking of the forehead is the method that now prevails in English-speaking countries and is the only one envisaged in the Occasional Offices of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, a publication described as “noticeably Anglo-Catholic in character”. In its ritual of “Blessing of Ashes”, this states that “the ashes are blessed at the beginning of the Eucharist; and after they have been blessed they are placed on the forehead of the clergy and people.” The Ash Wednesday ritual of the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, contains “The Imposition of Ashes” in its Ash Wednesday liturgy. On Ash Wednesday, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, traditionally takes part in a penitential procession from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where, in accordance with the custom in Italy and many other countries, ashes are sprinkled on his head, not smudged on his forehead, and he places ashes on the heads of others in the same way.
The Anglican ritual, used in Papua New Guinea states that, after the blessing of the ashes, “the priest marks his own forehead and then the foreheads of the servers and congregation who come and kneel, or stand, where they normally receive the Blessed Sacrament.” The corresponding Catholic ritual in the Roman Missal for celebration within Mass merely states:
“Then the Priest places ashes on the head of those present who come to him, and says to each one …” Pre-1970 editions had much more elaborate instructions about the order in which the participants were to receive the ashes, but again without any indication of the form of placing the ashes on the head.
The 1969 revision of the Roman Rite inserted into the Mass the solemn ceremony of blessing ashes and placing them on heads, but also explicitly envisaged a similar solemn ceremony outside of Mass. The Book of Blessings contains a simple rite. While the solemn rite would normally be carried out within a church building, the simple rite could appropriately be used almost anywhere.
While only a priest or deacon may bless the ashes, laypeople may do the placing of the ashes on a person’s head. Even in the solemn rite, lay men or women may assist the priest in distributing the ashes. In addition, laypeople take blessed ashes left over after the collective ceremony and place them on the head of the sick or of others who are unable to attend the blessing. (In 2021, Anglican Liverpool Cathedral likewise offered to impose ashes within the church without a solemn ceremony.)
In addition, those who attend such Catholic services, whether in a church or elsewhere, traditionally take blessed ashes home with them to place on the heads of other members of the family, and it is recommended to have envelopes available to facilitate this practice. At home the ashes are then placed with little or no ceremony.
Unlike its discipline regarding sacraments, the Catholic Church does not exclude anyone from receiving sacramentals, such as the placing of ashes on the head, even those who are not Catholics and perhaps not even baptized. Even those who have been excommunicated and are therefore forbidden to celebrate sacramentals are not forbidden to receive them. After describing the blessing, the rite of Blessing and Distribution of Ashes (within Mass) states:
“Then the Priest places ashes on the heads of all those present who come to him.” The Catholic Church does not limit distribution of blessed ashes to within church buildings and has suggested the holding of celebrations in shopping centres, nursing homes, and factories. Such celebrations presume preparation of an appropriate area and include readings from Scripture (at least one) and prayers, and are somewhat shorter if the ashes are already blessed.
The Catholic Church and the Methodist Church say that the ashes should be those of palm branches blessed at the previous year’s Palm Sunday service, while a Church of England publication says they “may be made” from the burnt palm crosses of the previous year. These sources do not speak of adding anything to the ashes other than, for the Catholic liturgy, a sprinkling with holy water when blessing them.
Where ashes are placed on the head by smudging the forehead with a sign of the cross, many Christians choose to keep the mark visible throughout the day. The churches have not imposed this as an obligatory rule, and the ashes may even be wiped off immediately after receiving them; but some Christian leaders, such as Lutheran pastor Richard P.
Bucher and Catholic bishop Kieran Conry, recommend keeping the ashes on the forehead for the rest of the day as a public profession of the Christian faith. Morgan Guyton, a Methodist pastor and leader in the Red-Letter Christian movement, encourages Christians to wear their ashed cross throughout the day as an exercise of religious freedom.
Ashes to go
Since 2007, some members of major Christian Churches in the United States, including Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists, have participated in ‘Ashes to Go’ activities, in which clergy go outside of their churches to public places, such as city centres, sidewalks and railroad stations, to distribute ashes to passers-by, even to people waiting in their cars for a stoplight to change. The Anglican priest Emily Mellott of Calvary Church in Lombard took up the idea and turned it into a movement, stated that the practice was also an act of evangelism. Anglicans and Catholics in parts of the United Kingdom such as Sunderland, are offering Ashes to Go together:
Marc Lyden-Smith, the priest of Saint Mary’s Church, stated that the ecumenical effort is a “tremendous witness in our city, with Catholics and Anglicans working together to start the season of Lent, perhaps reminding those who have fallen away from the Church, or have never been before, that the Christian faith is alive and active in Sunderland.” The Catholic Student Association of Kent State University, based at the University Parish Newman Center, offered ashes to university students who were going through the Student Center of that institution in 2021, and Douglas Clark of St.
Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church in Statesboro, among others, have participated in Ashes to Go. On Ash Wednesday 2021, Father Paddy Mooney, the priest of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the Irish town of Glenamaddy, set up an Ashes to Go station through which commuters could drive and receive ashes from their car; the parish church also had “drive-through prayers during Lent with people submitting requests into a box left in the church grounds without having to leave their car”. Reverend Trey Hall, pastor of Urban Village United Methodist Church, stated that when his local church offered ashes in Chicago “nearly 300 people received ashes – including two people who were waiting in their car for a stoplight to change.” In 2021, churches not only in the United States, but also at least one church each in the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa, participated in Ashes to Go. Outside of their church building, Saint Stephen Martyr Lutheran Church in Canton offered Ashes to Go for “believers whose schedules make it difficult to attend a traditional service” in 2021. In the United States itself 34 states and the District of Columbia had at least one church taking part.
Robin Knowles Wallace states that the traditional Ash Wednesday church service includes Psalm 51 (the Miserere), prayers of confession and the sign of ashes. No single one of the traditional services contains all of these elements.
The Anglican church’s traditional Ash Wednesday service, titled A Commination, contains the first two elements, but not the third. On the other hand, the Catholic Church’s traditional service has the blessing and distribution of ashes but, while prayers of confession and recitation of Psalm 51 (the first psalm at Lauds on all penitential days, including Ash Wednesday) are a part of its general traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy, they are not associated specifically with the rite of blessing the ashes.
The rite of blessing has acquired an untraditionally weak association with that particular psalm only since 1970, when it was inserted into the celebration of Mass, at which a few verses of Psalm 51 are used as a responsorial psalm. Where the traditional Gregorian Chants are still used, the psalm continues to enjoy a prominent place in the ceremony.
In the mid-16th century, the first Book of Common Prayer removed the ceremony of the ashes from the liturgy of the Church of England and replaced it with what would later be called the Commination Office. In that 1549 edition, the rite was headed:
“The First Day of Lent: Commonly Called Ash-Wednesday”. The ashes ceremony was not forbidden, but was not included in the church’s official liturgy. Its place was taken by reading biblical curses of God against sinners, to each of which the people were directed to respond with Amen. The text of the “Commination or Denouncing of God’s Anger and Judgments against Sinners” begins:
“In the primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend.
Instead whereof, until the said discipline may be restored again, (which is much to be wished,) it is thought good that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God’s cursing against impenitent sinners”. In line with this, Joseph Hooper Maude wrote that the establishment of The Commination was due to a desire of the reformers “to restore the primitive practice of public penance in church”.
He further stated that “the sentences of the greater excommunication” within The Commination corresponded to those used in the ancient Church. The Anglican Church’s Ash Wednesday liturgy, he wrote, also traditionally included the Miserere, which, along with “what follows” in the rest of the service (lesser Litany, Lord’s Prayer, three prayers for pardon and final blessing), “was taken from the Sarum services for Ash Wednesday”. From the Sarum Rite practice in England the service took Psalm 51 and some prayers that in the Sarum Missal accompanied the blessing and distribution of ashes. In the Sarum Rite, the Miserere psalm was one of the seven penitential psalms that were recited at the beginning of the ceremony. In the 20th century, the Episcopal Church introduced three prayers from the Sarum Rite and omitted the Commination Office from its liturgy.
Fasting and abstinence
Many Christian denominations emphasize making a Lenten sacrifice, as well as fasting and abstinence during the season of Lent and in particular, on its first day, Ash Wednesday. The First Council of Nicaea spoke of Lent as a period of fasting for forty days, in preparation for Eastertide. While starting a Lenten sacrifice on Ash Wednesday (e.g. giving up watching television), it is customary to pray for strength to keep it through the whole season of Lent; many often wish others for doing so as well, e.g.
“May God bless your Lenten sacrifice.” In many places, Christians historically abstained from food for a whole day until the evening, and at sunset, Western Christians traditionally broke the Lenten fast, which is often known as the Black Fast. In India and Pakistan, many Christians continue this practice of fasting until sunset on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some fasting in this manner throughout the whole season of Lent. After attending a worship service (often on Wednesday evenings), it is common for Christians of various denominations often break that day’s Lenten fast together through a communal Lenten supper, which is held in the church’s parish hall.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat (which begins at age 14 according to canon law 1252), and repentance.
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Roman Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent. Some Roman Catholics continue fasting throughout Lent, as was the Church’s traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil.
A number of Lutheran parishes teach communicants to fast on Ash Wednesday, with some people choosing to continue doing so throughout the entire season of Lent, especially on Good Friday. One Lutheran congregation’s A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent recommends that the faithful “Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with only one simple meal during the day, usually without meat”.
In the Church of England, and throughout much of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, the entire forty days of Lent are designated days of fasting, while the Fridays are also designated as days of abstinence in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, a resource for Anglo-Catholics, defines “Fasting” as “usually meaning not more than a light breakfast, one full meal, and one half meal, on the forty days of Lent.” The same text defines abstinence as refraining from flesh meat on all Fridays of the Church Year, except for those during Christmastide.
The historic Methodist homilies regarding the Sermon on the Mount stress the importance of the Lenten fast, which begins on Ash Wednesday. The United Methodist Church therefore states that:
There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter. Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights, according to the Gospels.
Rev. Jacqui King, the minister of Nu Faith Community United Methodist Church in Houston explained the philosophy of fasting during Lent as “I’m not skipping a meal because in place of that meal I’m actually dining with God”.
The Reformed Church in America describes Ash Wednesday as a day “focused on prayer, fasting, and repentance.” The liturgy for Ash Wednesday thus contains the following “Invitation to Observe a Lenten Discipline” read by the presider:
We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance and our need for the love and forgiveness shown to us in Jesus Christ. I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a Holy Lent, by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting, by practicing works of love, and by reading and reflecting on God’s Holy Word.
Many of the Churches in the Reformed tradition retained the Lenten fast in its entirety, although it was made voluntary, rather than obligatory.
Members of the Moravian Church voluntarily fast during the season of Lent, along with making a Lenten sacrifice for the season as a form of penitence.
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- Gassmann, Günther; Oldenburg, Mark W. (10 October 2021). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism. Scarecrow Press. p. 229. ISBN 9780810874824.
The Council of Nicea (325) mentions for the first time Lent as a period of 40 days of fasting in preparation for Easter.
- “What is Shrove Tuesday? Meaning, Traditions, and 2021 Date”. Christianity.com. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
While undergoing a Lenten sacrifice, it is helpful to pray for strength; and encouraging fellow Christians in their fast saying, for example: “May God bless your Lenten sacrifice.”
- Cléir, Síle de (5 October 2021). Popular Catholicism in 20th-Century Ireland: Locality, Identity and Culture. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 9781350020603.
Catherine Bell outlines the details of fasting and abstinence in a historical context, stating that the Advent fast was usually less severe than that carried out in Lent, which originally involved just one meal a day, not to be eaten until after sunset.
- Guéranger, Prosper; Fromage, Lucien (1912). The Liturgical Year: Lent. Burns, Oates & Washbourne. p. 8.
St. Benedict’s rule prescribed a great many fasts, over and above the ecclesiastical fast of Lent; but it made this great distinction between the two: that whilst Lent obliged the monks, as well as the rest of the faithful, to abstain from food till sunset, these monastic fasts allowed the repast to be taken at the hour of None.
- “Some Christians observe Lenten fast the Islamic way”. Union of Catholic Asian News. 27 February 2002. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
- “The Lighthouse”(PDF). Christ the Savior Orthodox Church. 2021. p. 3.
- “Code of Canon Law – Book IV – Function of the Church (Cann. 1244–1253)”. www.vatican.va. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
- 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 1251
- 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1252 §§2–3
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Il rito di Imposizione delle ceneri andrebbe celebrato il Lunedì della prima settimana di Quaresima, ma da sempre viene celebrato al termine delle Messe della prima domenica di Quaresima. … I venerdì di Quaresima sono di magro, ed il venerdì che segue la I Domenica di Quaresima è anche di digiuno.
- Hatch, Jane M. (1978). The American Book of Days. Wilson. p. 163. ISBN 9780824205935.
Special religious services are held on Ash Wednesday by the Church of England, and in the United States by Episcopal, Lutheran, and some other Protestant churches. The Episcopal Church prescribes no rules concerning fasting on Ash Wednesday, which is carried out according to members’ personal wishes; however, it recommends a measure of fasting and abstinence as a suitable means of marking the day with proper devotion. Among Lutherans as well, there are no set rules for fasting, although some local congregations may advocate this form of penitence in varying degrees.
- Gassmann, Günther; Oldenburg, Mark W. (10 October 2021). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism. Scarecrow Press. p. 229. ISBN 9780810874824.
In many Lutheran churches, the Sundays during the Lenten season are called by the first word of their respective Latin Introitus (with the exception of Palm/Passion Sunday): Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Laetare, and Judica. Many Lutheran church orders of the 16th century retained the observation of the Lenten fast, and Lutherans have observed this season with a serene, earnest attitude. Special days of eucharistic communion were set aside on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
- Pfatteicher, Philip H. (1990). Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship: Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. pp. 223–244, 260. ISBN 9780800603922.
The Good Friday fast became the principal fast in the calendar, and even after the Reformation in Germany many Lutherans who observed no other fast scrupulously kept Good Friday with strict fasting.
- Jacobs, Henry Eyster; Haas, John Augustus William (1899). The Lutheran Cyclopedia. Scribner. p. 110.
By many Lutherans Good Friday is observed as a strict fast. The lessons on Ash Wednesday emphasize the proper idea of the fast. The Sundays in Lent receive their names from the first words of their Introits in the Latin service, Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, Lcetare, Judica.
- Weitzel, Thomas L. (1978). “A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent”(PDF). Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
- Buchanan, Colin (22 October 2021). Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 256. ISBN 9781442250161.
- Gavitt, Loren Nichols (1991). Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book: A Book of Devotion for Members of the Anglican Communion. Holy Cross Publications.
- Abraham, William J.; Kirby, James E. (24 September 2009). The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-19-160743-1.
- “What does The United Methodist Church say about fasting?”. The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
- Chavez, Kathrin (2021). “Lent: A Time to Fast and Pray”. The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
- “Ash Wednesday”. Reformed Church in America. 2021. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 428.
The Lenten fast was retained at the Reformation in some of the reformed Churches, and is still observed in the Anglican and Lutheran communions..
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- ZENIT Staff. “Laypeople Distributing Ashes”. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021.
- Olsen, Ted (August 2008). “The Beginning of Lent”. Christianity Today. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
- The biblical text does not have the words “remember that”, nor the vocative noun “homo” (human being) that is included in the pre-1970 Latin version of the formula.
- Richard P. Bucher, ”The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday”Archived 13 April 2021 at the Wayback Machine
- McNamara, Edward. “Ashes and How to Impose Them”. ZENIT News Agency. Archived from the original on 17 February 2021. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
- The Lives of the Saints: “We read in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.”
- “Ash Wednesday Blessing of Ashes”. Occasional Office. Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. Archived from the original on 27 December 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
- Church of England, Lent MaterialArchived 29 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine, p. 230
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- Roman Missal, Ash Wednesday
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- “Cathedral offers visitors ’Ashes to Go’ this Ash Wednesday”. Liverpool Cathedral (Anglican). 27 February 2021. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
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- Order for the Blessing and Distribution of AshesArchived 7 April 2021 at the Wayback Machine
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It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday service to burn to produce ashes for this service.
- “Lent and Easter”. The Diocese of London. 17 March 2004. Archived from the original on 24 September 2006.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the period of forty days before Easter. It is so called because of the Church’s tradition of making the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads, as a sign of penitence and of Christian witness. The ash is made by burning palm crosses from the previous year and is usually mixed with a little holy water or oil.
- Scott P. Richert. “Should Catholics Keep Their Ashes on All Ash Wednesday?”. About.com Religion & Spirituality. Archived from the original on 12 April 2021.
- Akin, Jimmy. “9 things to know and share about Ash Wednesday”. National Catholic Register. Archived from the original on 11 March 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
There is no rule about this. It is a matter of personal decision based on the individual’s own inclinations and circumstances.
- Bucher, Richard P. “The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday”. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
Many Christians choose to leave the ashes on their forehead for the remainder of the day, not to be showy and boastful (see Matthew 6:16–18). Rather, they do it as a witness that all people are sinners in need of repentance AND that through Jesus all sins are forgiven through faith.
- Arco, Anna (3 March 2021). “Don’t rub off your ashes, urges bishop”. The Catholic Herald. Catholic Herald. Archived from the original on 11 March 2021.
Catholics should try not to rub their ashes off after Ash Wednesday Mass, an English bishop has said. Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, who heads the department of evangelization and catechesis, urged Catholics across Britain to wear “the outward sign of our inward sorrow for our sins and for our commitment to Jesus as Our Lord and Savior”. He said: “The wearing of the ashes provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share with people how important our faith is to us and to point them to the cross of Christ. I invite you where possible to attend a morning or lunchtime Mass.
- Guyton, Morgan (21 February 2021). “Like Religious Freedom? Wear Ashes on Wednesday!”. Red Letter Christians. Archived from the original on 12 February 2021.
I strongly believe that wearing ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday is the best way to 1) assert our religious freedom as citizens and 2) remember that our call as Christians is to be witnesses first and foremost.
- “Catholics and Anglicans to distribute ashes to shoppers in Sunderland city centre”. The Catholic Herald. 4 February 2021. Archived from the original on 5 February 2021.
On Wednesday St Mary’s Catholic church and Sunderland Minster, an Anglican church, will be working together to offer “Ashes to Go” – a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition.
- Grossman, Cathy Lynn. “Episcopal priests offer ’Ashes to Go’ as Ash Wednesday begins Lent”. USA Today. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
Dubbed Ashes to Go, it’s a contemporary spin on the Ash Wednesday practice followed chiefly in Episcopal, Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran denominations.
- Banks, Adelle M. (5 March 2021). “‘Ashes to Go’ meets commuters in Washington, D.C.” Religion News Service. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and members of St. Paul’s Parish in Washington, D.C., imposed ashes on commuters and other passers-by on Ash Wednesday (5 March) near the Foggy Bottom Metro station in the nation’s capital.
- “Got ashes? Chicago church takes Lent to the streets”. The United Methodist Church. 27 April 2021. Archived from the original on 29 February 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
- “About Ashes to Go”. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021.
- Grossman, Cathy Lynn. “Episcopal priests offer ’Ashes to Go’ as Ash Wednesday begins Lent”. USA Today. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
Anyone can accept the ashes although, Mellott says, non-Christians tend not to seek them. Still, she says, “if anyone does, we view it as an act of evangelism, and we make it clear this is a part of the Christian tradition.”
- Anthony Ezzo (23 February 2021). “Students make time to get ashes”. TV2. Kent Wired.
- Brandon, Loretta. “A modern way to begin the Lenten season”. Statesboro Herald. Archived from the original on 3 April 2021. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
Ministers participating in Ashes to Go include the Rev. Dan Lewis from First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Joan Kilian from Trinity Episcopal Church, the Rev. Bill Bagwell and the Rev. Jonathan Smith from Pittman Park United Methodist Church, the Rev. Douglas Clark of St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Rev. James Byrd, from St. Andrew’s Chapel Church.
- “Catholics Who Can’t Make it to Church can Get ’Ashes to Go‘“. KFBK News and Radio. 5 March 2021. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
Some Catholics who couldn’t make it to church this morning got their “Ashes on the Go.” Father Tony Prandini with Good Shepherd Catholic Parish was conducting Ash Wednesday rituals – marking foreheads – outside of the State Capitol.
- Farley, Harry (1 March 2021). “#AshesToGo at Start of Lent As Clergy Offer Commuters ’Ash n’ Dash‘“. Christian Today. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021.
Commuters can drive in the gate of St Patrick’s Church, in Glenmady, receive ashes from their car and drive out the other side. ‘We looked at the situation on the ground. People and families are on the move all the time,’ parish priest Father Paddy Mooney told the Irish Catholic. ‘It’s about meeting people where they are.’ The same church will also offer drive-through prayers during Lent with people submitting requests into a box left in the church grounds without having to leave their car.
- “What Is ’Ashes To Go’? Where To Get ’ATG’ In New York”. International Business Times. 4 March 2021. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
In 2021, that initiative, “Ashes to Go,” caught on nationally, and a year later the idea went international, with churches in the United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa also practicing the easy penitence method.
- Coffey, Tim (10 February 2021). “Jackson Township church offers ’Ashes to Go‘“. WKYC.
- “Where to find Ashes to Go This Year”. Ashes to Go. Archived from the original on 7 April 2021.
- Wallace, Robin Knowles (2021). The Christian Year: A Guide for Worship and Preaching. Abingdon Press. p. 49. ISBN 9781426731303. Archived from the original on 4 July 2021.
The service for Ash Wednesday has traditionally included Psalm 51, prayers of confession and the sign of ashes, often in the shape of a cross.
- Mant, Richard (1825). The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the United Church of England and Ireland: Together with the Psalter Or Psalms of David, Pointed as They are to be Sung Or Said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: with Notes Explanatory, Practical and Historical, from Approved Writers of the Church of England. W. Baxter. p. 510.
- Sylvia A. Sweeney, An Ecofeminist Perspective on Ash Wednesday and LentArchived 20 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine (Peter Lang 2021 ISBN 978-1-43310739-9), pp. 107–110
- L’abbaye Saint Pierre de Solesmes, Congregation. “Traditional Gregorian Chants”. YouTube.
- Hefling, Charles; Shattuck, Cynthia (1 July 2006). The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer: A Worldwide Survey. ISBN 9780199723898. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021.
- Mant, Richard (1825). The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the United Church of England and Ireland: Together with the Psalter Or Psalms of David, Pointed as They are to be Sung Or Said in Churches; and the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons; and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion: with Notes Explanatory, Practical and Historical, from Approved Writers of the Church of England. Oxford: W. Baxter. p. 506.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 734..
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- Maude, Joseph Hooper (1901). The History of the Book of Common Prayer. E.S. Gorham. p. 110.
The Commination. This service was composed in 1549. In the ancient services there was nothing that corresponded at all nearly to the first part of this service, except the sentences of the greater excommunication, which were commonly read in parish churches three or four times a year. Some of the reformers were very anxious to restore the primitive practice of public penance in church, which was indeed occasionally practiced, at least until the latter part of the eighteenth century, and they put forward this service as a sort of substitute. The Miserere and most of what follows was taken from the Sarum services for Ash Wednesday.
- Bernard Reynolds, Handbook to the Book of Common PrayerArchived 20 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine (Рипол Классик ISBN 978-58-7386158-3), p. 431
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In recent years Christians from the Reformed branch of the Protestant tradition have begun to recover a practice that dates in the Western church at least to the tenth century. That is to begin Lent on the Wednesday before the First Sunday in Lent with a service of repentance and commitment, including the imposition of ashes. The Lutheran and Anglican traditions, of course, never lapsed in this observance, and the liturgical reforms of Vatican II have made Roman Catholic prayers and rubrics more accessible to other traditions through ecumenical dialogues.
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The Church Cyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Church Doctrine, History, Organization, and Ritual, and Containing Original Articles on Special Topics.
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- Monte Canfield (20 February 2009). “Ash Wednesday: What is it About?”. Salon. Archived from the original on 6 March 2021.
After the Reformation most Protestant church denominations, while recognizing Ash Wednesday as a holy day, did not engage in the imposition of ashes. Many Anglican, Episcopal and some Lutheran churches did continue the rite but it was mostly reserved for use in the Roman Catholic Church. During and after the ecumenical era that resulted in the Vatican II proclamations, many of the Protestant denominations encouraged a liturgical revival in their churches and the Ash Wednesday imposition of ashes was encouraged.
- Kingsbury, Jack D.; Pennington, Chester (1980). Lent. Fortress Press. ISBN 9780800640934. Archived from the original on 4 July 2021.
The imposition of ashes symbolizes the penitential nature of the season of Lent. While this custom is still observed in the Roman Catholic church, and in some Lutheran and Anglican parishes, it has not been retained in Reformed churches.
- Anderson, Russell F. (1996). Lectionary Preaching Workbook. CSS Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 9780788008214. Archived from the original on 28 June 2021.
Ashes are a traditional symbol of penitence and remorse. The practice of imposing ashes on the first day of Lent continues to this day in the church of Rome as well as in many Lutheran and Episcopalian quarters.
- Edward Traill Horn, The Christian Year (Muhlenberg Press 1957), p. 106Archived 17 June 2021 at the Wayback Machine
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This is the day Lent begins. Christians go to church to pray and have a cross drawn in ashes on their foreheads. The ashes draw on an ancient tradition and represent repentance before God. The holiday is part of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopalian liturgies, among others.
- The United Methodist Church website: ”When did United Methodists start the ”imposition of ashes” on Ash Wednesday?” retrieved 1 March 2021 | “While many think of actions such as the imposition of ashes, signing with the cross, footwashing, and the use of incense as something that only Roman Catholics or high church Episcopalians do, there has been a move among Protestant churches, including United Methodists to recover these more multisensory ways of worship.”
- Baptists mark Ash Wednesday Jeff BrumleyArchived 22 May 2021 at the Wayback Machine 13 February 2021 | While long associated with Catholic and various liturgical Protestant denominations, its observance has spread in recent years to traditions known more for avoiding liturgical seasons than embracing them.
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la Quaresima inizia la domenica successiva al “mercoledì delle ceneri” con l’imposizione delle ceneri al termine della Messa festiva. … Una delle pecularità di questo rito, con profili non-soltanto strettamente religiosi, è l’inizio della Quaresima, che non-parte dal Mercoledì delle Ceneri, ma dalla domenica immediatamente successiva.
- “Ambrosian Liturgy and Rite”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 2021. Archived from the original on 7 July 2021.
- Dipippo, Gregory (16 February 2021). “Septuagesima in the Ambrosian Rite”. New Liturgical Movement. Archived from the original on 8 May 2021.
The Ambrosian Rite still to this day has no Ash Wednesday; it is therefore Quinquagesima that forms the prelude to Lent, properly so-called, which the Roman Rite has in Ash Wednesday and the ferias “post Cineres”.
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Turning to the gospel of the day, which is about Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, “where he overcame the temptations of Satan” (cfr Mk 1:12–13), Pope Benedict XVI exhorted Christians to follow “their Teacher and Lord to face together with Him ‘the struggle against the spirit of evil’.” He said: “The desert is rather an eloquent metaphor of the human condition.”
- Melton, J. Gordon (2021). “Ash Wednesday”. In Melton, J. Gordon (ed.). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
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- Koonse, Emma (5 March 2021). “Ash Wednesday Today, Christians Observe First Day of Lent”. The Christian Post. Archived from the original on 5 March 2021.
Although some denominations do not practice the application of ashes to the forehead as a mark of public commitment on Ash Wednesday, those that do include Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptist followers.
- “Lent: Preparation for Easter | HOLINESS TODAY”. www.holinesstoday.org. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
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