March 8, 2000
volume 11, no. 48
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In the Old Law ashes were generally a symbolic expression of grief, mourning, or repentance. In the Early Church the use of ashes had a like signification and with sackcloth formed part of the public penances. The blessing of ashes is one of the great liturgical rites of the year. It was originally instituted for public penitents, but is now intended for all Christians, as Lent should be a time of penance for all. The ashes used this day are obtained by burning the palms of the previous year. Four ancient prayers are used in blessing them, and, having been sprinkled with holy water and incensed, the priest puts them on the foreheads of the faithful with the words: "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shall return." The ancient prayers of the blessing suggest suitable thoughts for the opening of Lent. They are summarized here:
"Almighty and everlasting God, spare the penitent...
bless these ashes, that they may be a remedy to all who invoke Thy Name...
O God, Who desirest not the death but the conversion of sinners, look kindly upon our human frailty...
and bless these ashes, so that we, who know ourselves to be but ashes..
and that we must return to dust...
may deserve to obtain pardon and the rewards offerened to the penitent."
Grant, O Lord, to Thy faithful people, that they may undertake with fitting piety the venerable solemnities of fasting, and complete them with steadfast devotion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost.
A Plenary Indulgence is attached to this devotion according to article 194 of the Raccolta.
"The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected, and to be raised up on the third day. If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for My sake, that man will save it" (Luke 9: 22-24).
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, often I judge others and fail to be understanding or loving. Help me to see the people in my life through Your eyes, not the eyes of Pontius Pilate.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, You embraced Your cross to redeem the world. Help me to embrace the crosses in life-the hardships, struggles, disappointments, and pain. Only by recognizing my own weakness, can I discover Your strength.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, You know how often I fall trying to follow You. Yet, You are always there to life me up. Help me always to trust in Your loving care for me.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, Your mother Mary's grief was surpassed by her love for you. So often You come to me in others and their love gives me new life. Help me to see how often You love me through the people in my life.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, sometimes I am indifferent to the needs of others in my life. I even neglect those whom I love. Help me to see that loving others is the surest way to find You in my life.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, at times I am afraid to reach out to others. I do nothing when I should act; I say nothing when I should speak out. Give me a deeper and more courageous faith. Help me to trust that You are with me.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, failure and disappointment sometimes lead me to despair. I hide behind my pride and self-pity, withdrawing from You and others. Give me the hope I need and help me never to be afraid to begin again.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, Your great compassion for others overwhelms me. I feel petty and selfish when I think of You and the way You love. Help me to pour out my love, that You might fill me with Your Love.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, Your failing strength makes me see how helpless I am. Without You, I can do nothing. Help me to rely on Your strength, to see how much I need You.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, seeing You so cruelly humiliated makes me realize how I cling to my accomplishments, my possessions, my way. Help me to let go of those things in my life that prevent me from growing closer to You and others.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, I can never doubt Your great love for me when I see You crucified. Help me to see Your cross as the great sign of Your love for me.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, Your broken and lifeless body calls me to deeper faith. You chose death, even death on the cross. Help me to see my crosses as ways of loving You.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, seeing Your body taken from the cross reminds me how fearful I am of letting go of my own life. I am frightened when I think of being unimportant, useless, and helpless. Help me to place my life in Your hands.
MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, when I see the great stone sealing Your tomb, I feel alone and abandoned. Even though You sometimes seem distant or absent in my life, help me always to believe in Your closeness and loving presence.
Imprimatur: William Donald Borders, D.D.
Archbishop of Baltimore
August 21, 1984
March 8, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 48
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