Ash Wednesday with changes!
Ash Wednesday Changes
My dear brothers and sisters,
Lent and Ash Wednesday are upon us already this year! To say that this year will look slightly different that last is quite the understatement. In order to help facilitate how this year will look different I wanted to lay out just a couple changes that are taking place, one because of the restrictions due to COVID-19 (but stays within the realm of what is traditionally done!) and the other change that is happening due to a continuation of improvements made to the English translation of the Roman Missal from Latin.
First let me address the changes in the distribution of ashes for this celebration. Ashes will be distributed this year by sprinkling them over the heads of those who come forward and not by the imposition of them on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Sprinkling them over the heads of the people is, in fact, a more traditional symbol of penitence as it echoes back to scripture in the Old Testament where those prophets spoke of fasting in sackcloth and ashes in supplication to God (c.f. Daniel 9:3, Job 42:6, Nehemiah 9:1, Jonah 3:5-9) and even Jesus references this practice in the New Testament (Matthew 11:21). The practice of sprinkling ashes over the heads of penitents also is a common practice in other parts of the modern world including the Vatican and in Italy, although tracing with the sign of the Cross is common in many English speaking countries including the United States of America. Since we are still in the pandemic of COVID-19, the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments has issued a statement on distribution of Ashes in 2021 because of the pandemic (
). Ashes this year will therefore, follow the pattern outlined by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments, namely that
I will exhort everyone present once to repent and believe in the Gospel and then as people come forward (as at communion) to receive ashes I will sprinkle them upon their heads.
To be clear, next year (as long as we are outside of a pandemic), we will return to the tracing of the cross on the foreheads with ashes as that is what is more traditional here in the United States.
Read more about the history and differences of tracing and sprinkling ashes here:
Secondly I want to inform you of a smaller, but permanent, change that will happen beginning on Ash Wednesday regarding the English Translation of the Roman Missal. The U.S. Bishop's conference has addressed a translation error in the English translation of the collect (the opening prayer) at Mass. The collect invites people to pray in silence for a moment, and then offers a prayer to God that is drawn from the readings or feast of the day, or the purpose for which the Mass is being offered. At the conclusion of this prayer, an invocation to Jesus is said including a reference to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In Latin, with “…
Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.”
In English this has been translated as “one God, forever and ever" but in Latin there is no word referring to "one God", just "God." This concluding doxology was never meant to be an affirmation to the oneness of the Trinity, but is rather an affirmation that Christ is God. What that means is that now the English translation of the collect will more closely resemble that of the Latin words that it has been translated from. In effect, the collect at every Mass beginning on Ash Wednesday will now conclude with "Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen
." (not "One God, for ever and ever. Amen."). While this is a small change, words do indeed have meaning (we are affirming Jesus is God with these words) and it is a very good thing to align our English translation more in line with the ancient tradition of the Church that is seen in the original Latin.
Read more here:
May God bless you all and I pray that you have a grace filled Lent this year! See you at Mass!
-Fr. Andrew Kinstetter
Fr. Andrew Kinstetter
on Monday, February 15 at 3:05PM