I hate getting ashes on Ash Wednesday. Is it wrong or sinful not to receive them? I go to Mass every day so I am not going to skip Mass on Wednesday because ashes are being distributed. I can’t really explain why I don’t like it-I just don’t. Yes, we are going to return to ashes but it is only a temporary state…God is going to raise us up on the last day and gloriously restore our bodies…doesn’t Ash Wednesday lose sight of this?
No. Receiving ashes is a way of showing repentance for our sins. We are dust and clay (Genesis 2:7). It reminds us that we must repent before we die. By receiving ashes, we announce our intent to die for worldly desires, and become closer to the image of Christ.
So, no. Ashes are not solely a symbol of death. They are also a symbol of repentance and penance.
I would highly recommend receiving ashes.
I don’t think it is “sinful” not to, but I think not doing so on the basis of some principled opposition can evince some potentially dangerous tendencies.
No one is required to receive ashes if they don’t want to. It’s not sinful or wrong. The ashes are just a reminder of our temporary state on the earth.
If you have a phobic aversion to ashes, you don’t have to receive them.
The ashes come from the burnt palm leaves from the previous year.
If you have a theological objection to the idea, that’s more of a problem, because you’re pitting yourself against an ancient tradition that has become accepted by the Church. When this happens, the default stance ought to be “What am I missing?”
Ash Wednesday is actually connected to the sacrament of Reconciliation. In the early Church you only received Reconciliation once in a lifetime through the order of penitents, and the order of penitents would be reintroduced into the Church on Easter by wearing sackcloth and ashes and then receiving the Eucharist. Today, ash is continued to be used on Ash Wednesday as a symbolic reminder of our own sinfulness and our eagerness to undergo the transformation into a heavenly bodies, when the sinful nature will truly be vanquished from us forever. So it is a sacramental that is about penance, not about death.
You don’t have to receive ashes. That part’s not mandatory.
I don’t think Ash Wednesday is losing sight of the resurrection. It’s sort of like how some Christians object to the Catholic’s use of the crucifix in worship, saying Jesus rose. We remember death, as well as life. We celebrate Easter, and this is all a lead up to it. In no way have Catholics forgotten about the resurrection. If you doubt this, even ask a Catholic child if Jesus rose from the dead.
No, it is a sorely-needed reminder of our human mortality in a fallen world. Look around at the culture, we are supposed to be invincible and impervious to the call to holiness. Our culture worships money, status, sex. “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return” is not a denial of the Resurrection but an acknowledgement of Heaven and Hell. It is an affirmation of the ascendancy of the immortal soul and our dire need to make the right decisions now, before it is too late. When is it too late? When we are dead and returning to dust. That is too late for repentance. We cannot stand before Christ in His Judgement and say “but wait! I can change!” There will be nothing for us to do but obey.
You go to Mass every day and I am sure you frequent the sacrament of Penance as well so perhaps you have little need to worry about Hell. But the ashes help the rest of us remember that constant, urgent call to repentance and personal holiness that is the core of the Gospel message.
I too have a monumental phobia about death, and so AW is the one day of the year that I deliberately do not attend Mass. I cannot bear to hear the dust words over and over.
There is no obligation, IAC, to go to Mass or be “ashed” on AW, but fasting (if under 59) and abstaining (from meat) are all that are required.
God Bless and ICXC NIKA
Turtle18, my question becomes, why do you desire not to receive ashes?
I know you say that you have no way of explaining; however, I do honestly feel that if you reflect upon this carefully, you will have an explanation.
The ashes are simply one of many sacramentals, such as holy water, blessed chalk, medals, prayer cards, rosary, etc…
Q. 1053. How do the Sacramentals excite good thoughts and increase devotion?
A. The Sacramentals excite good thoughts by recalling to our minds some special reason for doing good and avoiding evil; especially by reminding us of some holy person, event or thing through which blessings have come to us. They increase devotion by fixing our minds on particular virtues and by helping us to understand and desire them.
Q. 1077. When are ashes blessed in the Church and why are they used?
A. Ashes are blessed in the Church on Ash Wednesday. They are used to keep us in mind of our humble origin, and of how the body of Adam, our forefather, was formed out of the slime or clay of the earth; also to remind us of death, when our bodies will return to dust, and of the necessity of doing penance for our sins. These ashes are obtained by burning the blessed palms of the previous year.
Yes, we are going to return to ashes but it is only a temporary state…God is going to raise us up on the last day and gloriously restore our bodies…doesn’t Ash Wednesday lose sight of this?
And yet, our origins are still the same - we are of humble estate, surely beloved of God our Father and of our Lord; however, as Christ said, he who would be first must be last (Start at Mark 9:30 and read thru to Mark 11, and also in Matthew 20:26 (maybe start at v20 there too… the context is important) and the Ashes help to keep our balance by reminding us of this fact. I hope that the body that is restored to me isn’t the one I am currently using… torn-knees, 1/2-blind, , as it reminds me daily of the temporary nature of this life.
IMHO, I think that is what all of our Sacramentals do for Catholics… help us to stay balanced, in the world, but not of the world. This is why I would encourage you to receive the ashes… even if you wipe them off before you leave the pew after Mass. (^_^)
If nothing else, offer it up as your first sacrifice for each Lent.
What’s amazing is that even though Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, millions attend including those that do not on most Sundays. I’ve always wondered about that.
Many years ago, I heard a priest refer to them as “A&P Catholics” because they made an appearance on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday, days when you got something for attending Mass. I’m sure he was joking.
Receiving ashes is also a sign of repentance and humility. You do not have to go up and get them, but you might be the only one in church who does not.
Those words are not always used - some years I get ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’ and others ‘Repent and hear the good news’.
At my church, it is usually “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. I truly love this phrase and find deep comfort and meaning in it. Maybe that wording would be easier for the OP in understanding the receiving of ashes.