Ash Wednesday in this crucial time of the pandemic
Why is Ash Wednesday important? Ash Wednesday is important because it marks the beginning of the season of Lent leading up to Easter when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.
The ashes symbolize both death and repentance. During this period, Christians show repentance and mourning for their sins, because they believe Christ died for them.
However, Ash wednesday in a crutial time like this will be observed differently because of the pandemic.
The Irish post reported how a priest in Donegal is providing ‘takeaway ashes’ for his parishioners ahead of Ash Wednesday tomorrow. The post say that Fr Brian Brady, of Clonmany in County Donegal found a unique way to allow Catholics in his parish to celebrate Ash Wednesday as he has begun providing packets of takeaway ashes.
It say traditionally, on the first day of Lent, Catholics receive ashes in the shape of a cross in their forehead as a reminder of their mortality, often accompanied by the words “we are dust and to dust, we shall return”. It says Fr Brady spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland yesterday where he revealed his church had provided 200 packets of ashes to parishioners so far, and they are searching for more due to the “big demand”.
The Washington Post reported that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington will follow guidance from the Vatican recommending priests sprinkle ashes on people’s heads without saying anything instead of swiping it on the forehead.
“Ash Wednesday is very important to Catholics. It’s great that something is being offered so that we can continue our worship at this time, as our faith is very important” Fr Brady said.
He has said he’d be ‘delighted’ if his novel way of helping parishioners observe Ash Wednesday is copied elsewhere.
The WP also says the Rev. Rachel Cornwell, pastor of Dumbarton United Methodist Church, is encouraging parishioners to burn their own ashes safely at home and to watch a virtual service.
“I hope it’ll give an opportunity to reflect what we’ve been through personally, individually in our community and in the world,” Cornwell said. “There’s hope on the horizon” Conwell said.
And instead of ashes, congregants at Cleveland Park Congregational United Church of Christ will be asked to identify something that has been consuming them in the past year, such as a worry stone or a word written on a piece of paper. During the service, they will reflect on the subject and then be asked to surrender it.
The St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill will host an art project where people send words for a banner created with dust and as it washes away, congregants re-create it throughout the 40 days of Lent. And Mount Zion United Methodist Church is inviting congregants to pick up ashes and also drop off soup cans for its shelter when they stop by the church.
So Ash Wednesday is going to be observed differently in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and avoid physical contact.