Wednesday, February 22, 2012


We begin with ash and end with fire!
Or is it we begin with fire and end with cold ash?
It is worth reflecting on the ashes we receive, they should be be made from the previous years palms.
One of our children was a little cautious about receiving them, I discovered he thought they were made from dead people, maybe even his deceased grandmother who had been cremated!
A whole palm frond, as opposed to a little leaflet or those so protestant palm crosses, are supposed be a sign of victory and triumph, used to greet the Christ as he enters hid Holy City, within a week they could become the instrument to strike Christ on the face, were they still lying in the street as he made his way to crucifixion.
When you burn them the oil in even dried ones burns like tiny tongues of flame - there is something here about fire and judgement - fire and the Holy Spirit - fire which quickly becomes cold lifeless ask.
In the English speaking world we place the ash on the forehead where we are Chrismated at Confirmation elsewhere it is place on the scalp where we are Chrismated at baptism. The place where we are annointed that is supposed to shine with the glory of God is marked with the filth of repentance.
There is a cycle of triumph, fire and ash that seems to be part of the Christian life contained in the Liturgy, somehow we hold all three in tension.
The ash reminds us we are dust and to dust we will return, tomorrow it will be gone, only Christ is unchanging, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.


Supertradmum said...

As a person with Montessori training, who had a Montessori school at one time, I can state that children learn from things, from nature, like the good Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas taught us. What we touch and smell creates knowledge. All the wonderful symbolism of the sacraments and sacramentals are based on reality. Thanks for this lovely post. A mini-reflection, indeed.

chris said...

Interesting article about the Church in England. Very nuanced.

Pablo the Mexican said...

Like the Navajo Indians here like to say:

"Pretty good, all right!"


Not For Me said...

Can anyone tell me when the instruction was given for lay people to place the ashes on the foreheads of the congregation? I know that we have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, lay readers, and such like but I am not aware that permission has ever been granted for lay people to administer the ashes. First of all I cannot believe the arrogance of lay people solemnly telling the other members of the congregation to repent and believe in the Gospel (or whatever the wording is these days), and equally, I cannot understand why any lay person would queue up and accept this charade. What next, Extraordinary Ministers of Confession?

Someonewhocanread said...

" opposed to a little leaflet or those so protestant palm crosses,"

So is that why palm crosses are specifically mentioned in the Ceremonial of Bishops for the Usus Antiquior, Book 2, Chapter XXI, 2: parvis crucibus de palmarum foliis compositis?

Fr Ray Blake said...

"parvis crucibus de palmarum foliis compositis"
I am not sure what that means, pictures always show those in procession carrying branches rather than small crosses.

In Rome the custom is to weave the leaves of branches into small crosses rather than a single cross made out of a leaflet.

Incidently, congratulations on being able to read but do you understand what you are reading?

Gigi said...

Lovely post. Nice to see people out shopping and coming home from work with their foreheads still largely "crossed" yesterday evening.
(Shamefully, my own big sister, who also had a convent education, didn't know that the ash was from the previous year's burnt palms! She isn't a churchgoer now and says she doesn't remember being told at school. Sadly, I don't think it's limited to some of the little ones...)

gemoftheocean said...

In answer to 'Not for Me's' question. Apparently, depends on what diocese you are in. The priest must be the one to bless the ashes. In theory laymen/women can be called upon to assist, as long as it has been approved for that diocese. In the US, for instance, most diocese have that indult. It depends on what the country is using re: the book of blessings. See here for long answer given on the ewtn website.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...