Should blessed ashes be wiped off after Mass?


In light of the Gospel reading, I washed off my ashes immediately after Mass. The reading really hit home with me.

When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.

However, did I take this verse too literally? Should I have left my ashes on my forehead as a witness to spreading the Good News?


The ashes serve as a symbol of our mortality and are a visible witness to union with Christ and his cross. They can be wiped off at any time but they need not be wiped off immediately after Mass because of the Gospel reading you quoted. In that Gospel Jesus is referring to those individuals who make their personal penances obvious to others by neglecting their appearance. He states that the attention they receive from doing so is all the reward that they will get.

On Ash Wednesday though, Catholics gather together as a community to mark the opening of Lent with a communal reception and wearing of blessed ashes. It is not a personal penance done publicly for attention but a communal action done in solidarity with the whole Church.

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