This week, we will begin our Lenten Journey with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday has always been a solemn day within the Church year, marked with Fasting, Abstinence and Almsgiving. As solemn as this day is, Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Furthermore, receiving ashes, although an important sacramental within the Mass, is not a charm by which we can secure our salvation. Ashes is an ancient sign of penance and mortification. Therefore, if you attend the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday (which only occurs on that Wednesday), then you may receive ashes. For those who are homebound or in the hospital, they may receive ashes if accompanied by a Liturgy of the Word, similar to what we do for Communion calls. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal says this: "The blessing and giving of ashes may be done outside Mass. In this case the entire Liturgy of the Word should be celebrated: entrance song, opening prayer, readings and chants, homily, blessing and giving of ashes, general intercessions." I would ask anyone who cannot attend the Liturgies to please refrain from requesting the application of ashes outside of the rite. When ashes are given outside of the Rite, they become a sort of charm or a symbol which might lead to confusion. Thank you!
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