Wednesday, March 01, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day One

Ash Wednesday!

Ash Wednesday is the day of one of my favorite religious rituals. There's something about getting to wear dirt on your forehead in the name of the Lord that's always appealed to me. It's also the day the Catholics are out of the closet. As I kid I would walk around amazed -- "Oh my God, he's a Catholic! And that lady is too!" However, now I realize that it makes us easy targets for anti-papist snipers.

I got my ashes at St. Pat's Cathedral (possible t-shirt slogan? God knows they sell everything else at St. Pat's) this morning and the priest really schmootzed me. On some people the ash looks like a thumbprint but on me it's a cross big enough to burn on somebody's front lawn. Perhaps he figured I needed a little more of the sacred ash than the other people in line.

The mark is right over where Hindus say your third eye resides. Is this a way the Catholic Church blocks and neutralizes the third eye? There's another possibility. In the Bible, Jesus makes a paste of mud and spit, rubs it in the eyes of a blind man and makes him see. Can the ash be seen as a reenactment of that healing, performed on our normally blind third eye?

I don't have my camera with me at work, so below is a fairly accurate artist's depiction of what I look like today.


Miss Stambaugh said...

Maybe some of those ash-wearin' New Yorkers you saw today weren't Catholic. Some could have been - yes there is a chance - Lutheran (or worse).

the hanged man said...

Lutherans celebrate Ash Wednesday by getting ashes on their forehead? Is this true?

(on edit) Okay, just did a quick google search, and found out that not only does the Roman Catholic church distribute ashes, but so do the Lutheran, Episcopal and Anglican churches.

Hmmm.....thanks Miss Stambaugh.

mrs. collins said...

I can confirm that my Lutheran co-workers were wearing ashes yesterday. I decided to sleep in rather than get to work in time for the Ash Wednesday service , now I feel guilty. Wait a minute, Lutherans don't feel guilt...

bill said...

It's catching. See this dispatch at Slate; a teaser:

Lent, it seems, isn't just for Catholics anymore. Over the last few years, more Protestant churches have begun daubing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in Western Christianity (March 1 this year). Fasting, long familiar to Catholics as a Lenten fact of life, is increasingly popular with evangelical Christians striving for spiritual awakening. A few mainline Protestant churches even conduct foot-washing services on Maundy Thursday—the traditional commemoration of Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples—that takes place on the Thursday before Easter. Which seems like a sign that Protestants may be starting to beat Catholics at their own game.