Ash Wednesday - February 17, 2021

"Come, let us return to the Lord..."  (Hosea 6:1)

How do we observe Ash Wednesday this year?

Ash Wednesday is an obligatory day of fasting for Catholics from age 18 until age 59. The minimum in fasting is to limit yourself to one modest meal and two small meals that do not add up to a meal. It is also a day of abstinence from meat from age 14 onwards. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Fish and shellfish are permitted, as are animal-derived products such as gelatin, butter, cheese, and eggs. All Fridays in Lent are days of abstienence from meat.

Catholics are encourage to attend a mass or Liturgy of the Word service and receive ashes on their head on Ash Wednesday. This year, churches may distribute ashes outside of a Mass of Word service. 

Sprinkling ashes on the head

This year Ash Wednesday will look a little different in this country. On January 12, an instruction came from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship that the distribution of ashes was to be modified this year. The priest will say the formula "Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" once and then the congregation will come forward to have ashes sprinkled on the top (Crown) of their heads. 

The sprinkling of ashes on the crown of the head is a very old custom. It is both biblical and has been maintained as an Ash Wednesday custom to this day at the Vatican, in several European countries, and in the Middle East. It will allow ashes to be distributed without physical contact or the excessive waste of using an implement such as a cotton swab or ball.

"Come, let us return to the Lord..."  (Hosea 6:1)


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