I thought I had heard them all! This is going “viral” on Facebook.
A number of people responded to the provocation to express indignation or wonder whether it is a joke. Even some gay people object to this aberration and feel insulted.
It certainly calls us to remember what Ash Wednesday is really all about. It is fundamentally about the inevitability of our death, our mortality, the great leveller that makes no distinction between rich and poor, etc.
In the Facebook thread, I was quite cynical in saying – I can’t imagine why they bother.
Someone responded: I suspect most of those to whom this silliness would appeal likewise have little concept of sacraments and sacramentals – more of the faith is what I think and what I like category.
I continued in the same light vein: Then I suppose it is “hip” or “cool”. There’s now’t so queer as folk!
Next response in a more serious tone: It misses the whole point, doesn’t it? Glitter is associated with celebration – which Lent certainly is not – and ashes with penance. Penance presupposes guilt which is very out of fashion.
I then finished with my own more serious reflection: This is why I said that it was difficult to understand why they bothered. The Ashes are a sacramental, but above all are symbolic of receiving sackcloth and ashes like when public sinners were told to leave the church and were only reconciled on Maundy Thursday, a sign of humiliation and our mortality – our commitment to repent of our sins and prepare ourselves to renew the vows of our Baptism, to rise with Christ in his Paschal Mystery. Death has to precede resurrection! Glittering ashes are simply a mockery.
This is what we should remember on Ash Wednesday. There’s no point to it unless we have some kind of resolve to adopt a Lenten discipline. It doesn’t have to be self-torture or giving up something pleasurable. It can be a decision to read a spiritual book or spend more time reading the Bible. It can be a pilgrimage or perhaps something like the painful journey of self-knowledge I have confronted over the past few months. In this reflection on mortality, I am particularly sensitive to the Parable of the Talents. What have I achieved? Too little, I know.
That’s what the Ashes are for. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.