Poll

Did/will you receive ashes to mark the beginning of Lent?

Yes
37 (92.5%)
No
3 (7.5%)
We don't mark the start of the season in any special way
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 38

Voting closed: March 16, 2019, 12:03:29 PM

Author Topic: Ash Wednesday Ashes  (Read 3567 times)

Michael Slusser

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Ash Wednesday Ashes
« on: March 06, 2019, 11:03:29 AM »
Today, March 6, is Ash Wednesday in the RCC. It is widely observed, and many Catholics get ashes on their foreheads with the prayer, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" or "Repent and believe the Gospel."

Other churches begin Lent in other ways or on other days.

I'm curious to know if there is a Lutheran view of this practice?

Peace,
Michael
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Harvey_Mozolak

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2019, 11:19:49 AM »
Michael, what be of even more curiosity is that in the 1940s and 50s in which I was a child, I would guess 99% of Lutherans did not receive or were offered ashes...  when I asked my dad, a Lutheran pastor, why you would call a day
Ash Wednesday and then not have anything to do with ashes, except perhaps in a scriptural reading, and then have nothing to do with a practice that went back a bit in the church, it was almost as if he had not thought of the answer except in terms of one of the things we don't do that or because Roman Catholics do it.  Of course, crossing oneself almost fit into the same statistical usage... almost because it was referred to by M.L. in the Small Catechism and so a very, very few might have done so privately and a couple dozen pastors in the US.  I know there are still some Lutherans that would eschew the practice today if they were offered ashes in their Lutheran parish.
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DeHall1

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2019, 11:36:32 AM »
Today, March 6, is Ash Wednesday in the RCC. It is widely observed, and many Catholics get ashes on their foreheads with the prayer, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" or "Repent and believe the Gospel."

Other churches begin Lent in other ways or on other days.

I'm curious to know if there is a Lutheran view of this practice?

Peace,
Michael
I don't know if it can be considered an overall "Lutheran" view, but I know that our church observes Ash Wednesday in much the same manner you describe here.   The Divine Service is conducted twice -- once at 12:15pm, and once at 7:00pm, both services with Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes.

I just did a quick scan of  other LCMS churches in the Kansas City area, and it appeared that an Ash Wednesday service is scheduled, although I couldn't find details regarding those services.

Based on this (hasty) scan, I think the imposition of ashes within Lutheran Churches here in the Midwest is more common than not.

John_Hannah

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2019, 11:36:54 AM »
In this part of the nation, I think that almost all Lutheran churches offer the impostition of ashes today.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2019, 11:42:51 AM »
The parish that I served for just shy of 25 years was a merger of Lutheran and UCC.    The formerly UCC were suspicious of anything liturgical and some the pre-merger Lutherans were LINOs.  (How I lasted so long is a testimony more to God's grace than my talent and tenacity).

So Ash Wednesday was a rough sled.  Some years it was obvious that there were really two congregations sharing a building....those who would receive the ashes and those who would sit in the pew, sometimes arms folded and scowling.

My final Ash Wednesday--knowing that I was going to be leaving, somehow, that year, and having had the zhits of that behavior I pointed out the following;

1)  The removal of the distribution of ashes was mandated by "The Act of Recision" by the British Parliament in 1666--note the ending digits--along with banning palms on Palm Sunday and candles on the Feast of the Presentation. Strange that we who otherwise wanted Independence from the British crown would cling tenaciously to an act of a foreign government.

2)  Those who think that they are the truly obedient ones (by not receiving the ash mark) are forgetting the positive command of the Gospel.  "Wash your face"---ashes are a primary ingredient of lye soap.  "Anoint your head"--ashes are best mixed with some olive oil into a paste for better application.   So those who receive the ashes are in fact being obedient to the Gospel.

3)  Those who think that they are more obedient are falling prey to the attitude of the Pharisee "I thank God that I am not like other men".

So that final year, all but one person received the ashes....but in the first year after my departure there was an ash-less Ash Wednesday.

Now there isn't even an Ash Wednesday service at all.

Ja vell,  So gates.

(O well, so it goes--Pennsylvania Dutch)

+ + +

Do I miss the Ash Wednesday liturgy?   

Only a little.

Its themes are replaced and augmented in the Orthodox Church by the First Saturday of Souls (on the 2nd Saturday prior to the start of Great Lent) and the Sunday of the Last Judgement which follows the next day:  Both days stress the brevity of life and the certainty of death.

The Vespers of Forgiveness on the final Sunday evening before Lent (in 2019 this coming Sunday, March 10) expands the exhortation in 2 Corinthians "we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" by encouraging the congregation to be reconciled each with the other.   Each person in turn embraces the next, saying "Forgive me, the sinner" and hearing the response "I forgive [and God forgives]", then takes the next spot in an ever expanding line.

That exchange of forgiveness comes after the first praying of the Prayer of St. Ephraim, a prayer which will be used on every Lenten weekday...sometimes multiple times a day.

Quote
O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

(Prostration)

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.

(Prostration)

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You, unto ages of ages. Amen.

(Prostration)

On Clean Monday--the first Day of Great Lent there is a service of Great Compline which includes not just the three prostrations of the Prayers of St. Ephraim, but, depending on the jurisdictional and parish practice, prostrations after every phrase of the First Quarter of the Great Canon of Repentance by St. Andrew of Crete.

So I do not fret about not receiving an ash mark when I will likely receive a rug burn on my forehead from the many prostrations in the weeks ahead.  ;)
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 09:05:31 AM by J. Thomas Shelley »
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Jeremy Loesch

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2019, 11:44:41 AM »
DEHall, you're in KC?  Where?  I'm in Grandview/Lee's Summit, serving at Holy Trinity in Grandview.  We have worship at 11:30 and 7:30.  Communion is celebrated at the 7:30 service.  Our congregation never used ashes until I showed up in 2014.  I spent a fair bit of time teaching about this practice and its symbolism.  I also emphasized the voluntary aspect because I knew there would be folks who would continue their previous practices.

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peter_speckhard

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2019, 11:52:15 AM »
I introduced the practice at my last church and always make sure to let people know it is entirely optional and there are fine reasons to accept and to decline receiving ashes on the forehead, so nobody should be pressured to come forward.

The only one who ever really made a point of resisting the practice was a woman who told me every year how ironic it was that the Gospel reading starting out with Jesus saying beware of practicing your piety before men right after so many of us had gone up for ashes that the wearer couldn't even see but everybody else could.

I grew up with the practice and would guess it is pretty common in LCMS congregations by now.

DeHall1

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2019, 12:05:41 PM »
Pastor Loesch -- I'm on the Kansas side  :)

..In Basehor, KS, to be precise.   We were members of Emmaus Lutheran (in Bonner Springs) and moved to St. Martin's after Emmaus and St. Martin's merged.

Risen Savior Lutheran Church (http://www.risensaviorlcms.org/) is the result of the merger between Emmaus and St. Martin's.

I know Emmaus had the imposition of ashes since at least 2004 (that's when we became members -- I think it's a safe assumption that this practice predated our membership, as Pastor Burow had been there for many years).  I can't state with certainty that was the practice at St. Martin's.

IIRC, Pastor Burow at Emmaus used to burn the palms from Palm Sunday for the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.  I wonder how often this is still done?


scott9

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2019, 12:06:27 PM »
After chapel today, it seems like more people have ashes on their foreheads than don't here at CU-Ann Arbor.

Dan Fienen

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2019, 12:07:08 PM »

Seems to me that the objection of publicly practicing our piety and prohibitions toward doing that is in part a matter of motivation and intent, and little about style.  I have taken what Jesus said as commenting on those who make a show of their piety, showing off.


My family always prayers at meal time, even when eating out.  But we pray quietly without a lot of fuss and bother.  To pray loudly and very obviously so that everyone around cannot help but notice such a prayer would, I think be wrong, against what Jesus said.


Ashes are visible but to wear them and draw attention to them (like a newly engaged woman waving her ring in front of everyone she encounters) would be contrary to Jesus command.  On the other hand, as a quiet witness, not bad.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2019, 12:16:09 PM »
IIRC, Pastor Burow at Emmaus used to burn the palms from Palm Sunday for the ashes used on Ash Wednesday.  I wonder how often this is still done?

That was always my practice.

I kept a wicker vase filled with the dried palms in my study.   They needed to be cut to about 1-1 1/2 inch chunks in order to be burned.   I still have the thoroughly smudged galvanized quart pail and wooden spoon I used for that annual operation.
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pearson

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2019, 12:24:16 PM »
The imposition of ashes is a practice at my Lutheran parish that predates my arrival here 25 years ago.  From what I gather, it is also the practice at most (if not all) ELCA congregations is south Texas.  The large LCMS congregation in McAllen (St. Paul's) also practices the imposition of ashes, I have been told.

And many of my students came to class this morning with the mark of ashes on their foreheads.

Tom Pearson 

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2019, 12:31:50 PM »
Here in rural Allamakee County, northeast Iowa, we do three services with imposition of ashes and with Holy Communion.  I just got back from the 10am service at Old East Paint Creek.  We have 6pm and 8pm services at Old West.  I've been here almost 25 years.  They were doing it before I came. 

RDPreus

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2019, 12:39:30 PM »
As far as the imposition of ashes goes, I've never done it or seen it done.  I don't think it is very common out here.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Ash Wednesday Ashes
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2019, 12:52:29 PM »
The imposition of ashes was never done during my predecessor's time (1970-2000), and I suspect was not done prior to him. This is a 130+ year old parish with deep German roots.  Such things, I think, were usually seen as too "Catholic," like chanting and such.  I only introduced the practice last year and it was well received.  Like Peter I am careful to let people know it is optional; no one is pressured to do it.  Still, if I remember, most did receive it last year, for the first time in the history of this parish.
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