“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent. A day that we literally wear our hearts on our sleeves, or more like on our foreheads. A day to think about mortality, about what is really important in life. When I knelt to pray, I once again gave thanks and asked for continued strength. I prayed, “Change my heart.” This made me think of one of my favorite hymns, “Change our hearts.” Well, guess what was the opening hymn. Yep, “Change our hearts.” This happened to me once before, over a year ago, and I sang and I cried. Today, I sang and I smiled. I smiled because my heart is changing. The pain of betrayal and anger is still there in my heart, but it’s softer now. A tiny bit softer.
When I was at church with everyone else, it wasn’t unusual, but after Mass this morning, I needed to stop at the bank and the grocery store. At the store, I totally forgot I had ashes on my head because, well, I didn’t see myself. But, when people gave me a strange look, or a double take, then I remembered. At the bank, Independent Bank on Virginia, the girls there all know me. They just said, “Hi, Miss Toni. You just come from church?” I don’t even need to show a card or punch a code, they just type my name in on their screen, and take care of my transactions. That’s what I love about my town.
(AN EXPLANATION OF ASH WEDNEDSAY CATHOLIC TRADITION:)
St. Anthony Messenger
By Susan Hines-Brigger
Ashes to Ashes
If there ever is a day of the year when you can spot Catholics at a glance, Ash Wednesday is it. It is the one time when Catholics literally wear their faith on their foreheads. In fact, Masses on Ash Wednesday are better attended than Masses on most holy days, except Christmas.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics. The ashes we receive on our forehead in the shape of a cross serve as an outward sign of our sinfulness and need for penance. The ashes also symbolize our mortality, a reminder that one day we will die and our bodies will return to dust. Hence the traditional words, remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.
The tradition of receiving ashes has its origins in the Old Testament, where sinners performed acts of public penance. It was Pope Urban II who in the 11th century recommended that all Catholics take part in the practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. In the 12th century it became customary that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday were made by burning the previous year’s palm branches.
Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. According to Church law, Catholics older than the age of 14 are supposed to abstain from meat. In addition, those between the ages of 18 and 59, not including pregnant or nursing mothers, should eat only one full meal. Smaller amounts of foodï¿½not as much as a full mealï¿½may be eaten in the morning and either at lunchtime or dinner, depending on when you eat your full meal.