Thoughts on Ash Wednesday




This is a tongue-in-cheek post, but still portrays my thoughts. I did my yearly Ash Wednesday duty and received the ashes. But as always, I leave feeling just a little bit dirty. Not because of having ashes on my forehead, although that should qualify, but because it appears we are doing the exact opposite of the point that our Gospel reading was trying to get across.

Yesterday’s reading is brought to us by the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6. Of particular interest is the part on fasting.

“16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ”

What do we do immediately following this reading? Put ashes on our faces, get told to fast for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and not to eat of beast or fowl on Fridays during Lent. Now didn’t Jesus just finish telling us to wash our faces before we go out so that people don’t know we are fasting and praying? Seems kind of ironic to me.

I understand the meaning of the ashes. They remind us that we are all sinners and will eventually die, but isn’t there a better way to remind ourselves that we are of dust, and to dust we shall return? Like maybe put it someplace on us where WE WILL SEE IT? Putting ashes on my forehead does nothing to remind me. I don’t even see it. But everyone else can. And maybe that’s the point, I don’t know. Maybe we are assuming that there will be so many people that will carry this mark that I will be reminded of it, and I am also part of the collective that is reminding others. Either way, it still seems to contradict the point of Gospel reading.

It seems that some parishes get this too, because someone else I know says their priest puts the ashes on top of their head, where it’s not really visible at all.

Oh, look at me. I’m wearing ashes. I’m fasting and praying because it’s Ash Wednesday.

Guess I already have my reward.