Sunday, February 22, 2009

Season of Lent...

Ash Wednesday is from a liturgical point of view one of the most important days of the year. In the first place, this day opens the liturgical season of Lent, which formerly began with the First Sunday and comprised only thirty-six days. The addition of Wednesday and the three following days brought the number to forty, which is that of our Lord's fast in the desert.

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 the ashes is one of the great liturgical rites of the year. It was originally institued 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 the blessing of them, and having been sprinkled with holy water and incensed, the Priest puts them on the forehead of the faithful with the words: "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." The ancient prayers of the blessing suggest suitable thoughts for the opening of Lent. They are summarized here:

"Almight 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 that conversion of sinners, look in kindness 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 offered to the penitent."

The above is taken from the Marian Sunday Missal, copyright 1960. It is one of the many precious and dear books and publications I was able to bring home with me from Wisconsin last April (2008). I brought home 2 boxes of books that had belonged to a priest from the LaCrosse diocese,including hardback copies of the Documents of Vatican II. What a gift they've been! What a glorious treasure! I feel so blessed and honored to have them. Thank you, Father Heindl, and may God rest your kind, good and holy soul! I do believe it was by "Divine Design" that I ended up with them, as there are no coincidences in the Christian life. The artwork in these old books is just amazing, intricate and so inspirational. They don't make 'em like this anymore!
And how cool! Just now I was searching for an image to add to this post, and found the one above, which is the exact illustration in the missal! I love God's "winks" to me! ; )

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