Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection. Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the Church's blessing and help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. With the ashes, we recognize that we have sinned but ready for transformation, and that is why the Church reminds us of this reality, saying: "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."
Ash Wednesday is also a way to admit the ways in which we are not living the best we could be. It is a time for continued reflection and preparation to celebrate the Holy Week, in expectation that God will touch our hearts to begin a new way of living. Lent is a beautiful time to recognize and remember that God walks with us. It is a process of change over 40 days. It is a time to be strengthened through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christian who had committed grave faults used to perform public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts they were to wear during the forty days of penance and sprinkled over them ashes made from the previous year's palms. Then, while the faithful recited the seven penitential psalms, the penitents were turned out of the Church because of their sins. The penitents did not enter the Church again until the beginning of the Lord's Supper (on Holy Thursday), after having reconciliation and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public penitents or simply standard sinners, came to receive ashes out of devotion.
It is important to remember that this year due to the pandemic situation, things will look a little bit different. Ashes will be distributed at the end of Mass (rather than after the homily), after the priest prays the prayer after communion and concludes the Mass. After the final blessing, the faithful will come forward to receive ashes (we will use a clean Q-tip on each person's forehead) and then depart in silence.
May the Lord continue to bless us all during this time of preparation for Easter Triduum and may the Virgin Mary intercede for each of us, imploring God grant his blessings in our everyday lives.
Fr Miguel, Pastor
Please note this year's Ash Wednesday Schedule:
Masses in English at 8:15am, 12:10pm, and 5:30pm
Mass en Espanol at 7:00pm
Walk-in ashes from 9:00am-11:00am and 2:00pm-4:00pm
Reservations are required to attend Mass in person. All Masses will also be live streamed on the parish website and social media. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation and the dispensation to attend Mass for the faithful of the Diocese of Trenton from Bishop O'Connell remains in place.