Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday


We are reminded, "from dust we came and to dust we shall return."  

Today begins the 40 days of penance traditionally celebrated in the Catholic Church, and a tradition carried on by many Protestant communities as well.  We offer up something which we would do regularly, or even something which will cause some lack of comfort.  Many give up some sort of food product, and each time when we would have partaken in that food, our mind is brought to the reason we're doing this - to be mindful of THE Sacrifice Christ underwent for us.


  1. On Turretinfan's blog a contributor named H.T. Biglo wrote a small entry citing Matthew 6:17 -

    17But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face;

    Biglo adds: Choose whom you will serve.

    Biglo confuses the sacramental of putting ashes on our fourhead, which is a remembrance of "for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return." Gen. 3:19 with the penance of fasting. Below is what I posted on TF's blog:

    The fasting and the ashes are really two different things.

    The ashes are to remind you "from dust you came and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19).

    Fasting is to mortify the body, to eat only one full meal for the day (and two small snacks which if combined would not add up to a full meal). A little bit of suffering to call into remembrance the suffering of our Lord and Savior. When you get that little hunger twinge, you turn your thoughts to Jesus. Jesus fasted for 40 days before He began His public ministry - and Ash Wednesday begins 40 days of penance prior to Easter (not counting Sundays because every Sunday is a solemnity and we are not obliged to fast or abstain on solemnities). The 40 days of penance (offering something up for Lent). Again, the focus is upon Christ - as it should be.

    Abstinence from meat (which you did not bring up, but is also part of Ash Wednesday and ALL Fridays - not just Lent!) is similar in reason to the fasting. When you would have had that cheeseburger turn your mind to Jesus and remember WHY you're not having that cheeseburger! When you're at dinner with friends and someone orders a big steak - again, your focus returns to Christ and you're reminded WHY you are ordering fish instead of that steak! Every Friday throughout the year is like a "little Good Friday" - when we're called to remember Jesus' humiliation, suffering and death upon the Cross between two thieves. Now, during Lent this abstinence must be from meat - during the rest of the year it MAY be something else equivalent to meat, as permitted by ones local ecclesiastic council. It MAY still be meat! As for me and my family, we stick to abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout the year. Giving up meat on Fridays has LONG been identified with Catholicism, so why faithful Catholics would not want to continue to be identified with this is baffling to me. We should EMBRACE who and what we ARE!

    So, there are really THREE things we do on Ash Wednesday - and while all are to focus our thoughts on Christ - the ashes are not part of the fasting or the abstinence, nor are any of these practices part of the other. They are all separate acts which we happen to do all on one day.

    If you understood WHY we do what we do - you might not be so critical.

  2. Don't forget to fast on Good Friday also.  God bless you for defending our faith on the other site.  I find that Protestants frequently misunderstand what we do and what we believe.  You patient and persistent defense is much appreciated.

  3. Thank you Cathmom5, and I appreciate your contributions here too! Any other Lenten thoughts to share?


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