Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ashes and Annointings

I have been having inter-net problems! Sorry for not being in touch recently.

Yesterday I burnt last years palms for this years ashes. The symbolism is about triumph turned into tragedy, or outward vanities salted by fire. It is worth meditating on the ashes of the palms. They are are imprecise symbol as all good symbols should be. What is turned to ashes? Is it the popular understanding of the Kingdom, the one the disciples had, the one that solicited the cries of 'Hosanna' that would soon be replaced by 'Crucify him'.
We begin Lent with ashes but the Paschal Mystery actually ends with the coming of the fire of Pentecost, is the ash of Lent supposed to remind us of how we reduce his Divine gifts of the Spirit. It is what we are without Christ.

The name 'Christ' means anointed, when left to us the 'new man' made by God becomes primal dust and ash: which is really what man is without the breath of God. Ash is the symbol of non-Christ or even 'anti-Christ. A symbol of coldness and the dead, of mourners.

It is significant that the place where we were Chrismated is the place where we are 'ashed'. There is that statue of a presumably pagan soldier with a cross branded or cut into his forehead as a sign of his imperial 'sacramentum' or oath to to the Emperor, if the ashes are applied in that 'traddie' form of a cross on the forehead, it reminds us of how we have transformed the graces we received at Confirmation when we were anointed there is turned into the emptiness of dust and ashes, which when left to us, is what happens to the sacred anointing.
In Christian coronation rites, the crown is only important in so far as it demonstrates the outward sign of the quasi-sacramental act of the anointing of the head, it is an anointing similar to that given at baptism, which symbolises our becoming priest, prophet and king, without grace even that becomes ash, the burnt out vestige of Divine Grace.


nickbris said...

Welcome back Father Ray,our therapy has been severely interrupted.

Very interesting article Father,I never gave the symbolism much thought but we were taught as infants that in the "Good old Days' penitents were obliged to stand outside the Church with ashes on their heads,we were greatly relieved that that rule had changed and we were only had to have a small cross on our foreheads.

Liam Ronan said...

So very good to have you back, Father. Marvellous piece too.
I suppose this is the reason why we Christians, whether crashed on the internet's information highway or no, will be 'ash-tagged' tomorrow and twittering away with trending hope. (Forgive the terrible puns.)

Newefpastoremeritus said...

Welcome back, Father Ray.

viterbo said...

Nothing terrible in the puns, Liam. It's a triumph of Tradition, that if crashed on the internet freeways of perdition (barring the soul-saving pitt-stops of Fr Ray, Fr Dickson, Fr Hunwicke, and the dear Fathers of Golgotha monastery, and dear Bones et al (even the rather excoriating Mundabor), we terminator-like, crawl to the nearest CC and get ash-tagged anyway.
In one of Benedict's books - the first of the Trilogy I think, he recalls how the 'tav' or cross on the foreheads of penitents showed them to belong to the Lord (OT), much like the blood of the lamb on the doorpost at passover.

Chrissy said...

Good to see you back Father, I have missed reading your blog.