Today is Ash Wednesday, the Catholic sacramental to mark the beginning of Lent. The 40 day period is a reflection of the 40 days in which Jesus went into the desert after his baptism to fast and pray before beginning his ministry. During this time he was tempted by the devil but never fell into temptation. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Catholics didn’t even know why they put ash on their face and look like complete douchebags.
Here’s a Fun Fact:
The account of Jesus in the desert for 40 days is in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. However, John omits this. Jesus begins his ministry the very next day after his baptism.
So which was it? Did Jesus go into the desert immediately after his baptism or did he immediately begin his ministry? It depends on which gospel you read.
Catholics avoid eating meat and some go so far as fasting for the entire day. It is also a time of repentance. But why the ashes in a cross shape on the forehead? Why does the Catholic Church insist in making its flock look like complete assholes?
As a child, I usually was in school when I received the burnt ashes from last year’s Palm Sunday palms. Since all of us had them it wasn’t too strange. I did find it annoying that the nuns would come around and inspect your lunch to ensure that you didn’t have meat. As for the ashes, It wasn’t until I would get home and have to go out with my Mom or Dad somewhere. You were supposed to keep it on until it wore off on its own.
A person with burnt shit on their face doesn’t look holy, you look like you got dirt on your face while working on something and nobody told you. This look does not work for anybody and I’m sure if I were to go today to get ashes I would look like Charles Manson.
The ashes are a reminder of our mortality. I don’t know about feeling mortal while wearing them but certainly I felt mortified when someone outside the church caught me in public with smeared ashes on my face.
It is interesting to note that Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent is not mentioned at all in the bible. However there are several mentions of repentance and mourning with ashes in the bible, mostly in the Old Testament. You can find a passage in the New Testament:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” – Matthew (11:21)
I suppose I should be thankful that the Catholic Church didn’t make it “Sackcloth Wednesday” –
Sackcloth – A rough cloth of camel’s hair, goat hair, hemp, cotton, or flax.