roll on christmas  
click here to find out more about ship of fools click here to sign up for the ship of fools newsletter click here to support ship of fools
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
discussion boards live chat cafe avatars frequently-asked questions the ten commandments gallery private boards register for the boards
Ship of Fools

Post new thread  Post a reply
My profile login | | Directory | Search | FAQs | Board home
   - Printer-friendly view Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
» Ship of Fools   »   » Oblivion   » Beauty for Ashes

 - Email this page to a friend or enemy.    
Source: (consider it) Thread: Beauty for Ashes
General nuisance
# 10

 - Posted      Profile for Laura   Email Laura   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I poked around, and it looks like this one hasn't been kicked around yet this year (how is this possible? Did I miss it?) but how do we feel about wandering around all day with smudgy foreheads? I used to wear the ashes as an observance, a way of standing out, forcing myself to be public about it, but in recent years, I've felt like it was too much like the showing yourself to be fasting etc that Jesus suggests we shouldn't do. Mind, now, I'm not saying that's what it is, I'm saying I have become less comfortable with the practice at the same time that I've become much more comfortable identifying as a person of faith to others when it comes up, which seems contradictory to me.

What are your views/experiences/theological feelings on the subject?

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

Posts: 16883 | From: East Coast, USA | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 1458

 - Posted      Profile for leo   Author's homepage   Email leo   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
In my experience (in the past - haven't been to mass yet today), it provokes semi-evangelistic conversations. Always from people of good will.

My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

Posts: 23198 | From: Bristol | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 14715

 - Posted      Profile for ExclamationMark   Email ExclamationMark   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
It can seem rather ostentatious unless set into the right context .... strange though that some who wouldn't wear a small cross on their lapel are happy to have ashes on their heads.

[ 06. March 2014, 07:16: Message edited by: ExclamationMark ]

Posts: 3845 | From: A new Jerusalem | Registered: Apr 2009  |  IP: Logged
# 13343

 - Posted      Profile for Eirenist         Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Someone I know prefers to be ashed on his hand rather than his forehead; he doesn't want to be seen as 'parading his piety'.

'I think I think, therefore I think I am'

Posts: 486 | From: Darkest Metroland | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged
# 17707

 - Posted      Profile for seekingsister   Email seekingsister   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
The Gospel reading at yesterday's Ash Wednesday service was the one that says not to make it obvious that you are praying and fasting to get worldly attention. I'd been debating whether or not to remove the ashes when I returned to work but that sort of made my mind up.

On the walk back to the office, a man on the street stopped to tell me that I had some dirt on my forehead. I explained that it was Ash Wednesday and he seemed a bit embarrassed not to have realized.

Posts: 1371 | From: London | Registered: May 2013  |  IP: Logged
# 13074

 - Posted      Profile for bib     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I must admit that I visit the bathroom after the service and clean the smudge away. I see no need to make a public display of something which I feel is private between me and my God.

"My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise I bring"

Posts: 1307 | From: Australia | Registered: Oct 2007  |  IP: Logged

Like as the
# 4991

 - Posted      Profile for Adam.   Author's homepage   Email Adam.   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I've certainly had the kind of experiences Leo describes. I almost think of it as a lay equivalent of what I now do most of the time by wearing clerics. Wearing a cross doesn't often start those kind of conversations in the way that a collar or ashes can.

I'm also pretty persuaded by the historical argument that Jesus was talking about private fasts, not the public fasts that all Jews did together. Other Christians might see this differently, but as a Catholic, the Ash Wednesday fast is a public matter, not something "private between me and God." It's an ecclesial matter.

Of course, it's also deeply personal, and some of my Lenten disciplines I do keep very private, mostly because they are chosen to respond to particular fault lines of sin I'm afflicted with that I'm not going to share with every Tom, Deirdre and Harry. I could see a good argument that it would actually be wrong of me to disclose some of those, as they are personal fasts, and being public about those would go against what Jesus teaches.

Of course, Jesus also teaches that we should "let our light shine before others, that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in Heaven" (Matt 5:16), in the same speech as the teaching on fasting you're referring to. There's a tension here that must be navigated with discernment, both on a personal and on an ecclesial level, I think.

Ave Crux, Spes Unica!
Preaching blog

Posts: 8164 | From: Notre Dame, IN | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged
Jane R
# 331

 - Posted      Profile for Jane R   Email Jane R   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Of course, those of us with hair flopping over our foreheads can wander around with ash smeared on ourselves for the whole afternoon without anyone noticing the difference...
Posts: 3958 | From: Jorvik | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
General nuisance
# 10

 - Posted      Profile for Laura   Email Laura   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I find the Catholic vs. Protestant view on this interesting, and it makes sense that Roman Catholics would be more willing or feel obligated to publicly wear the ashes. I guess I feel more protestanty about it. (And I'm an Episcopalian, so you'd think I'd lean to the RC about it, but then, I don't cross myself anymore, either, unless I feel strongly moved to do so, or go on autopilot.

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

Posts: 16883 | From: East Coast, USA | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

 - Posted      Profile for mousethief     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Back when I was in an ashy denom (TEC), I found it opened up a couple of conversations in which I was able to tell people unfamiliar with the concept what Lent was about. I don't know if others thought I was parading my piety. Then again other people's sinful attitudes are their sin, not mine.

This is the last sig I'll ever write for you...

Posts: 63536 | From: Washington | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 3861

 - Posted      Profile for sabine   Email sabine   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Although Quakers don't have an ash wednesday ritual, I used to work for a RC organization and received ashes once. I decided to wear them for the rest of the day, and had the following experience.

A man approached me in a drug store to let me know that I had dirt on my forehead. He was a refugee from Albania. I explained what they were, and he told me that he and his wife had often wanted to go to church but that the opportunities were few and far between in Albania. They visited a monastery once, but were required to listen to a Marxist-Leninist lecture before being allowed to tour the monastery. He told me he knew very little about religion but felt lead to explore.

Now in the US, he felt extremely shy about investigating churches. He even had one picked out (RC) but he and his wife (and children) hadn't yet gone. I explained that he probably would not stand out as uninformed in a large congregation and could sit in the back and observe. I also encouraged him to check with the church office to talk with someone when he felt the time was right and that would be considered normal behavior for someone who wanted to learn more.

So, while wearing ashes from the ritual of a church not mine, I believe I was able to help another person find a place where he might be able to take a step on his spiritual journey.

Were I a person who receives ashes every year, I think this experience would encourage me to wear them for the rest of the day.


"Hunger looks like the man that hunger is killing." Eduardo Galeano

Posts: 5887 | From: the US Heartland | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

 - Posted      Profile for no prophet's flag is set so...   Author's homepage   Email no prophet's flag is set so...   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
No one has ever walked around with ashes that I've seen. They get them in the evening, and then go home. Never have I seen anyone with them in other public places. It would be something very unusual and conversation would likely start with "you have dirt on your forehead", and the discussion of ashes and what they're about would undoubtedly result in a incredulous "really?". It's probably a cultural thing. -- I personally wouldn't have them in public.

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.

Posts: 11498 | From: Treaty 6 territory in the nonexistant Province of Buffalo, Canada ↄ⃝' | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged
Ship's Spare Part
# 3291

 - Posted      Profile for M.   Email M.   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Strange, I'd never seen it in my life until 3/4 years ago, when I saw one person (who at the time I thought had a dirty forehead, it didn't occur to me for days after what it was); then for a couple of years, I saw lots of ashed people and then this year, no-one again. This is walking around central London.

Luck of the draw, I suppose, or did it become particularly popular for a short time?


Posts: 2303 | From: Lurking in Surrey | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
General nuisance
# 10

 - Posted      Profile for Laura   Email Laura   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
sabine: that's a great story. I love that story.

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. - Erich Fromm

Posts: 16883 | From: East Coast, USA | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Hooker's Trick

Admin Emeritus and Guardian of the Gin
# 89

 - Posted      Profile for Hooker's Trick   Author's homepage   Email Hooker's Trick   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I wear them all day, for the reasons Hart describes.

The most common response I get (if I get any response at all) is "you have dirt on your head."

What I've discovered from the conversations this leads to is that most of my interlocutors are much more conversant with the concept of Ramadan than they are with Lent, so from both an evangelistic as well as purely cultural point of view it seems worthwhile to go round for one day with a dirty head & take the opportunity to describe why some Christians do so. Introspection, humility, almsgiving and self-reflection are some of the more attractive aspects of Christianity, especially in a world all too apt to associate Christianity with self-righteousness and reactionary judgmentalism.

And I can hardly see how one can be said to be 'parading one's piety' when most people are too unaware of Christian practice to think anything other than someone has dirt on his head.

Posts: 6735 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 368

 - Posted      Profile for Martin60   Email Martin60   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Last night was the first time. Popped in to the Co-op afterwards (from a point in the road I can spit at home, church and Co-op). Remembered and thought that wiping it would be ... multiply problematic. So just carried on. Nobody batted an eyelid. How wonderfully British. In the sense of English of course.

Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged

liberal "peace first" hankie squeezer
# 13

 - Posted      Profile for RuthW     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
For me it's a combination of the things Hart and Hooker's Trick describe.

I live in a town with a lot of Latino Catholics, so if I walk around with ashes, I get looks of recognition and fellow-feeling all day. These folks aren't generally going to look at me and think, "She's one of us." But on Ash Wednesday I am one of them.

When people ask about it, it's an opportunity to tell them something about Christianity that isn't widely known among non-Catholics around here.

Posts: 24453 | From: La La Land | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 4517

 - Posted      Profile for Egeria     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I don't see wearing ashes in public as "parading piety" or even a declaration of fasting; after all, for various reasons to do with health, family responsibilities, or overloaded schedules, many people aren't fasting (even if they would prefer to). And it certainly isn't up there with wearing sackcloth and tearing the cheeks. Most people coming from Ash Wednesday services are simply their normal selves. I've worn the ashes all day a few times and never received any comments except "Oh, you got your ashes!" And there are plenty of people in my community who wear their ashes all day; last year, my unit head remarked on the number of students who had already received ashes when she came into work.

We've had some interesting conversations in the office on Ash Wednesday--student assistants discussing "How you will observe Lent," and one non-Christian student (of East Asian descent--I never found out what religion he belonged to) asking how Christians fast. One of my colleagues and I filled him in on some of the practices that Christians can undertake in this season. So all in all, it's usually an interesting time in the church calendar.

Last night, one of my fellow parishioners and I discovered that we have similar reactions to the Ash Wednesday service; it's one of our favorites. Although I loved the evening choral Eucharist, I think I would rather go to the early morning one because it's the start of the day and the start of the season. And then I would just leave the ashes on my forehead.

"Sound bodies lined / with a sound mind / do here pursue with might / grace, honor, praise, delight."--Rabelais

Posts: 314 | From: Berkeley, CA | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
# 58

 - Posted      Profile for Ariel   Author's homepage     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
On the few occasions when I've done this, I've always wiped them off before emerging into the wider world. Because it looks embarrassing. I know, I'm not the stuff of which martyrs and heroes of the faith are made.

[ 07. March 2014, 07:19: Message edited by: Ariel ]

Posts: 25445 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
# 9163

 - Posted      Profile for Jante   Email Jante   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
I went across to the local café afterwards with the cross still on my head and about half a dozen of our congregation were also sat with their foreheads marked. When I went up to the counter to order the coffee, than manager asked what it was all about- adding I know its Ash Wednesday today. It seems my wearing my collar gave him permission to talk about it. I explained, and he added at the end well of course we are all sinners!
It was one of those lovely moments of ministry.

My blog http://vicarfactorycalling.blogspot.com/

Posts: 535 | From: deepest derbyshire | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged
# 238

 - Posted      Profile for Crœsos     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
And in a very few exceptional situations wiping off the ashes can be absolutely imperative.

Humani nil a me alienum puto

Posts: 10706 | From: Sardis, Lydia | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Lamb Chopped
Ship's kebab
# 5528

 - Posted      Profile for Lamb Chopped   Email Lamb Chopped   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Dang. He managed to create lye, didn't he? Great for making soap, not so hot for Ash Wednesday.

{oh dear, the puns, they burnnnnnn}

Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Posts: 20059 | From: off in left field somewhere | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged

Post new thread  Post a reply Close thread   Feature thread   Move thread   Delete thread Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
 - Printer-friendly view
Go to:

Contact us | Ship of Fools | Privacy statement

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0

follow ship of fools on twitter
buy your ship of fools postcards
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
  ship of fools