Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Ashes, for Ash Wednesday are supposed to made out of the palms which were carried in procession last Palm Sunday. The symbolism is earthly glory turned to dust and ashes: Palm Sunday - Good Friday.
There is a high oil content in palms so once you have them started them they burn pretty quickly but the smoke is pretty acrid, not like the smoke of incense. I know priests who have used any old ash, ash from ash trays, some of the ecclesiastical suppliers even send ash in a little sachet, I knew one who used to get an envelope of ash from the local crematorium, a rather overstated emphasis of 'Remember Man you are dust and to dust you shall return', though he himself tended to use the alternative, 'Repent and believe in the Gospel'.
'Authenticity' in the Liturgy should be important, it is important in the Christian life, it should be important in Lent. 'Authenticity' is the brother of Truth, one of the most important aspects of Lent is the Sacrament of Penance, one significant reason people fail to go to Confession is that they are afraid of facing the truth about themselves and afraid of admitting it to another human being. There is a cowardliness here that is quite alien to the Gospel.
Living in shadows, living with half truths, living with illusions is not Christian. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Christians are supposed to be both truthful and honest, especially about themselves and the Lord.
The great spiritual masters tell us to 'seek humiliations', ultimately the humiliation of the Cross, the best way of doing this is to be truthful and honest about ourselves, to face up to the reality of who we are, to remember that we are dust and to dust we will return, to be truthful, to be honest about what we do and who we are, without this we cannot even begin to pray authentically, because must be grounded in absolute honesty, we cannot live a lie in the face of God.
Perhaps this Lent for all of us our Lenten penance should be about scrupulous authenticity: honesty about who we are, integrity about our relationship with Christ, even if it brings us disadvantage, humiliation, pain, suffering, even death.
The new martyrs of Egypt died with the Holy Name of Jesus on their lips, may they inspire us this Lent to live with His Truth always on our lips.
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