A Message from Monsignor Richter on the Distribution of Ashes this Ash Wednesday
Parishioners of Queen of Peace,
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. For this year, the ashes will be sprinkled on the top of the head, instead of making a cross on the forehead.
The Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, recently came out with the above directive for how ashes are to be distributed this Ash Wednesday during the pandemic. This change has been directed to us from the Holy See and affirmed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The sprinkling of the ashes on the top of the head is the usual way of distributing ashes throughout almost all of Europe, including Rome. The tradition of sprinkling ashes on the head vs. making a cross on the forehead is an ancient one. In the Old Testament, ashes were paired with sackcloth as a symbol of repentance. If someone wanted to show their repentant heart, they would wear sackcloth, sit in ashes and put ashes on the top of their head. It was an external sign of one’s internal repentance and sincere desire for a change of heart.
If you are like me, you prefer our form of the distribution of ashes. You will miss being marked with a cross of ashes on the forehead. But maybe we can consider it a way to humble ourselves before our Lord and the Church in obedience. This would be a very good way to begin this Holy Season of Lent. If we can’t witness to Jesus with ashes on our foreheads this year, let’s witness to Him with humility and obedience in our souls.