Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

Today's Gospel Reading for Mass, in both the New and Old Latin Rite, includes these verses from the 6th chapter of Matthew:
[16] "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Since today is Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, and especially considering the quote above, many question whether or not it is a moral thing to be seen in public with ashes on their head.

Repentance with dust and ashes is a good thing, approved of in Scripture.

Clearly, if it is a matter of pride "See, look at my ashes!" then it might be bad. However, the normative penitential practices of Lent: ashes, fasting, and abstinence, are part of positive Church Law, that is, Church-made regulation and discipline. In this case, then one can publicly practice these, since they uphold the Church. You ought to show to the world that you do what is expected of good Catholics.

Practicing penances otherwise should be done in private, as our Lord commands us.

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