Ash Wednesday (a short story)

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We stood in the sacristy and waited for Fr Ryan. The smell of beeswax and lingering incense hung in the air, and I thought hungrily of the breakfast I would eat after serving Mass. Her husband is in a bad way and needs a priest. I had to send Fr Ryan. Mattie and I looked at each other. He was suffering, his face ruby from the booze, cranky as a hornet in a bottle. Uncle Seamus had emigrated to America when he was a young man and had died in New York a fortnight ago, aged So it was decided that he should be cremated and his ashes sent over.

How could you be resurrected from ashes blown about everywhere on the wind? It was a poor way to go. But this was to be his Requiem and Mattie and I were not about to let anybody down. When we were done he said,. Mattie and I followed behind. The chapel was full to bursting.

Why Observe Ash Wednesday?

I recognised my mother, my aunt and uncle and my cousins, all in their Sunday Best sitting in the front pew to the right of the altar. The turnout meant that at least Uncle Seamus was getting a good send-off. Mattie and I followed Fr Casey to the altar, and stood either side of him. The priest put the box of ashes on the altar, bowed, and welcomed everyone. I noticed the statues were all covered, but was still a little lightheaded from the overnight fast to take much notice. I knew I had to concentrate on getting everything right. I wanted to fit in, not make a show of myself.

But it was going well. The Kyrie was out of the way and Mattie and I went to the opposite ends of the altar and sat in the choirstalls for the Readings.

Ash Wednesday explained...

I started to daydream. I often did when I was hungry and I had a hunger on me now that made me dream of fry ups, and stews and dumplings.

I jumped a foot. Surely there was a good bit of the Mass still to go?

He was not a man to be crossed, especially at 10am on a dreary midweek morning, suffering the horrors, full of fire and brimstone. I stepped out from the choirstall and advanced to the altar. He gave me a dirty look from his glassy eyes. I nodded reverently and returned to the choirstall. By now I was thoroughly puzzled.

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Slowly, the congregation approached the altar rails. Fr Casey was there to greet them, a small metal vessel in his hands. As each parishioner approached him, he put his thumb in the vessel and placed the sign of the cross on their foreheads. There, on her forehead, was a smear of ash. I knew now why the statues were veiled: this was Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, and all the people processing up to receive the sign of the cross were being smudged with ashes from the box on the altar. Fr Casey had decanted them into his little vessel and was signalling now for me to come and top him up.

But the ashes were the wrong ashes!

3 Bible Stories to Teach Your Kids about Lent

The ashes in the box were the remains of Uncle Seamus! What I could I do? Fr Casey would excommunicate me. Fr Casey was looking very cross now. He must be running out, I realised, and there were still lots of people needing their ashes. I took the box to Fr Casey, who used a little scoop to decant them into his vessel. I was powerless to stop him, resigned now to Fr Casey dispersing the last of Uncle Seamus onto the foreheads of the congregation, and watched as they all walked solemnly back down the aisle.

Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel c. These Old Testament examples evidence both a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism. The early Church continued the usage of ashes for the same symbolic reasons.

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Q: A Protestant friend asked me why Catholics use ashes on Ash Wednesday. What are the origins of Ash Wednesday and the use of ashes?. Imagine if angelic beings went to school to learn to become guardian angels. They would probably have a lot of questions about the strange things that humans.

In his book, De Poenitentia , Tertullian c. Also during this time, for those who were required to do public penance, the priest sprinkled ashes on the head of the person leaving confession. In the Middle Ages at least by the time of the 8th century , those who were about to die were laid on the ground on top of sackcloth sprinkled with ashes.

Eventually, the use of ashes was adapted to mark the beginning of Lent, the day preparation period not including Sundays for Easter. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.

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Since the Middle Ages at least, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins. In our present Ash Wednesday liturgy, we use ashes made from burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died and rose for our salvation.

We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven. In essence, we die to ourselves, and rise to a new life in Christ. As we remember the significance of these ashes and strive to live it during this time of Lent, we must allow the Holy Spirit to move us to charity toward our neighbors.

What Is Ash Wednesday?

I sat on the futon and felt my hands tingling just to touch the box. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, a day of penitence or cleansing of the soul. Visit our data blog. Prayer helps us to turn our attention to God and turn away from what keeps us from God. Book file PDF easily for everyone and every device. I asked him to hold on, then I went into the bedroom and started rummaging around in my drawers. I usually pay twenty or twenty-five, so that was pretty fucking good.

An excessive desire for possessions prevents human beings from being open to their Creator and to their brothers and sisters.