Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Since I have already argued against the practice of Lent in general it is not hard to see why I am against Ash Wednesday in particular. It is a day that means nothing more than the beginning of Lent, which is found no where in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause, but Ash Wednesday goes deeper, and is more Romanizing than much of the Lenten practices. Not only does this begin the day when the Penitential Fasting (or giving up something) begins, which we have stated is supposed to expiate our sins in the Roman tradition, but also it is a day of receiving ash on one’s head.

This ash is not supposed to be washed off, but rather worn around all day. This is a problem because of Matthew 6-16-18. Here our savior teaches that we should not draw attention to ourselves when we fast, but ashes on the forehead cannot be seen as anything else. It is a sign that one is following the practice of fasting. This violation of Scripture is enough to throw away any idea of Ash Wednesday, but there is more.

The ashes used are known as sacramentals. Basically, it is not a sacrament, but not just a rite either. Sacrament lite is a good way to think of it. Read this discussion of sacramentals.

Besides the efficacy which the sacramentals possess in common with other good works they have a special efficacy of their own. If their whole value proceeded from the opus operantis, all external good works could be called sacramentals. The special virtue recognized by the Church and experienced by Christians in the sacramentals should consist in the official prayers whereby we implore God to pour forth special graces on those who make use of the sacramentals. These prayers move God to give graces which He would not otherwise give, and when not infallibly acceded to it is for reasons known to His Wisdom.

Here we clearly see the idea that sacramentals are good works that merit something from God, a purely Roman idea. But they also go further and derive a special blessing for those participating in a sacramental. What special benefits, you ask. Read more.

One of the most remarkable effects of sacramentals is the virtue to drive away evil spirits whose mysterious and baleful operations affect sometimes the physical activity of man. To combat this occult power the Church has recourse to exorcism and sacramentals. Another effect is the delivery of the soul from sin and the penalties therefor.

The sacramentals can protect us from demons and deliver our souls from the penalty of sin. The ashes in Ash Wednesday are classified as sacramentals and help deliver us from the penalty of sin. It is not possible to remove this underlying theology from the practice of Ash Wednesday, especially if the practice of Ash Wednesday is virtually identical.


angelsinger64 said...

haha, one time I was working at the library, and this little girl walked up and had the ashes on her head...I wasn't trying to be mean but I said to her,"hey, you've got something on your head", and she sarcastically said "yeah, I know"...good times

Andrew McIntyre said...

Well, I erase the ash for the reason you mentioned. Yet, we should remember that the practice arose in a Christian culture. Thus, in the past, everyone would have had ash on their head as a sign of collective repentance and mourning for our sin. One would not have stood out.

To me there is profound Christian and biblical meaning involved when the minister says, "Andy, from dust you are and to dust you shall return" while placing ashes on my forehead. I have been warned. The basic message is not that ashes save, thought some may mistakenly teach such. It is "Repent, thou sinner, for the Kingdom of Heaven draweth nigh!"