Pope at Ash Wednesday Mass:
Following an ancient Ash Wednesday mass tradition, Pope Francis began the “stational” liturgy at the church of Sant’ Anselmo before leading a penitential procession to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill where he celebrated Mass.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on ashes imposed on the foreheads of the faithful at the start of Lent.
- Date: 46 days before Easter Sunday; see “When Is Ash Wednesday?” for the date this year.
- Type of Feast: Commemoration.
- Readings: Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6 AB, 12-13, 14 and 17; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
The Purpose of Ash Wednesday Mass
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19.
The line from Genesis reminds us our lives on this earth won’t last forever. We are a finite people who hold hope in something infinite and beyond ourselves. Bearing a mark throughout the day that is visible to others puts an explanation point on the Genesis passage. We become walking witnesses of that place of truth.
Heaping ash wednesday mass upon the head, rending the garment, and donning sackcloth were all outward signs of penitence in biblical times. Such a display was one of abject humility and repentance, but could also turn into an occasion for infighting and ego-inflation.
The ashes used on Ash Wednesday fasting are obtained from the burning of the palms of a previous Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks Jesus‘ return to Jerusalem, when people waved palm branches to celebrate his arrival. The ashes are blessed by the priest during. The Ash Wednesday Mass after the homily. Then the ashes are applied to each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross.
GOSPEL FOR ASIA CALLS ON CHRISTIANS TO PRAY AND FAST FOR END OF CORONA-VIRUS DURING LENT
“I wish, again, to express my closeness to those who are ill with coronavirus and to health-care workers who are caring for them,” the pope said.
Francis prayed for the thousands of victims of the virus affected globally, which includes 300 in Italy, and the medical personnel treating them, before he looped through the square in his popemobile, shaking hands with pilgrims in the front row and kissing at least one baby.
Later in the day, Francis will celebrate an Ash Wednesday Mass at a Rome church, marking the start of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and prayer leading up to Holy Week and Easter.
SINGAPORE – Public masses have been suspended across the more than 30 Catholic churches in Singapore, but it has not stopped Catholics here from observing Ash Wednesday mass.
They commemorated the day on Wednesday (Feb 26) by attending special online masses, with some marking their forehead with ash to observe the occasion.
How the ashes are made
Dust loved by God
“We are dust in the universe,” he said. “Yet we are dust loved by God.”
The Holy Father added that we are precious dust that is destined for eternal life.
“We are the dust of the earth, upon which God has poured out his heaven, the dust that contains his dreams,” he said. “We are God’s hope, his treasure and his glory.”
The Distribution of Ashes
During Mass, the ashes which give Ash Wednesday mass its name are distributed. The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday; many churches ask their parishioners to return any palms that they took home so that they can be burned.
After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the faithful come forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person’s forehead, says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” (or a variation on those words).
By the dates
- Ash Wednesday: February 26
- Palm Sunday: April 5
- Good Friday: April 10
- Holy Saturday: April 11
- Easter: April 12
Ash Wednesday Mass in the Catholic Church Things to Do:
- Go with your family to receive ashes at Mass . Leave them on your forehead as a witness to your faith. Here is a Lenten reflection on the meaning of the ashes on Ash Wednesday. If you have children, you may want to share this with them in terms that they can understand.
- Today parents should encourage their children to reflect upon what regular penances they will perform throughout this season of Lent. Ideally, each member of the family should choose his own personal penance as well as some good act that he will perform (daily spiritual reading, daily Mass, extra prayers, almsgiving, volunteer work, housecleaning, etc.), and the whole family may wish to give up one thing together (TV, movies, desserts) or do something extra (family rosary, Holy Hour, Lenten Alms Jar).
- The use of Sacrifice Beans may help children to keep track of their Lenten penances. Some families begin this activity (with un dyed beans!) on Ash Wednesday 2020 and then use the collected beans to cook a penitential bean dish for Good Friday at the end of Lent.
- Here is a Lenten prayer that the family may pray every night from Ash Wednesday mass to the first Saturday in Lent, to turn the family’s spiritual focus towards this holy season.
- Read Pope Francis’s 2020 Message for Lent with the theme: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).
How fasting has changed
Taking Stock of Our Spiritual Life
This fasting and abstinence is not simply a form of penance, however; it is also a call for us to take stock of our spiritual lives. As Lent begins, we should set specific spiritual goals we would like to reach before Easter and decide how we will pursue them—for instance, by going to daily Mass when we can and receiving the Sacrament of Confession more often.
Ash Wednesday Mass Prayer
In many churches today, the pastor will use these words from the Book of Common Prayer to invite God’s people into the season of Lent:
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great
devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and
it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided
a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy
Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of
notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to
the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation
was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set
forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all
Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer. Amen