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.
So thankful for the graces of sacramental Confession, but my oh my, it does not get easier to go, even if one has been recently and the “list” is comparatively short. I remember realizing once how easy it is to repent of everything plus the kitchen sink, all kinds of “big” sins rather than admit to the small(er) thing the Lord is putting on our hearts, that “small” thing that is foolish, embarrassing, petty perhaps that is humiliating to admit to.
Make yourself go, you will be so glad you did!
Wonderful to discover at our Ordinariate parish yesterday, two priests available for Confession, and a steady stream of parishioners availing themselves of the opportunity to be “shriven.”