In Ireland, priests occasionally use cork cut with a cross pattern as a stamp on Catholics' foreheads. Countries that "sprinkle" have some variation as well—in some, the priest places his ash-covered thumb on the crown of the head. In others, he throws the ash from a distance of a few inches. Whatever the case, it's an ancient ritual that still has people asking questions about death and survival after they've been through a fatal car crash.
The custom dates back at least to the Middle Ages when it was used as a mark of identification in case someone claimed ownership of the body. It also served to remind everyone that no matter how great or powerful we are, we all die someday.
In addition to being placed on the head, ashes can be given away in prayers for the dead or sprinkled in church yards. They can also be used to bless food or candles for the dead.
Ashes contain elements such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. The burning of bones and teeth removes any remaining organic material and releases important nutrients for plant growth.
It is believed that if you wear your father's old clothes, drive his car, eat at his restaurant, or employ him then you will enjoy success in life. This is because he represents authority and stability which are needed to thrive.
During an Ash Wednesday ritual, a priest applies ashes to a Catholic's forehead. Brian May, US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class/US Navy/Public domain.
The origins of Ash Wednesday may be traced back to the ancient Jewish practice of repentance and fasting. Ashes are worn on the head as part of the ritual. The ashes represent the dust from which we were created by God. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return," the priest says as he administers the ashes on a person's forehead.
Catholics and many other Christians will have ashes applied to their foreheads in the shape of a cross on Ash Wednesday. Ashes, which represent penance, sadness, and mortality, are typically worn throughout the day to publicly demonstrate one's faith and penance. Ashes may also be used in rituals to summon up spirits or ask for help from saints.
According to Catholic tradition, when Jesus was crucified, he not only sacrificed himself but he also took upon himself the sins of all humanity. Thus, in order to save mankind from eternal punishment after death, his body was given the ultimate honor by being taken down from the cross and buried. Although his body disappeared, his soul went to heaven where it remains today at the right hand of God. During times of great need, believers anoint themselves with oil and water the Eucharist to remember and invite Christ's saving power into their lives.
Ashes are used in several rituals within the Catholic Church. For example, during Easter time, ashes are often sprinkled on the heads of children before they begin their first Holy Week ceremony. This is done as a sign of cleansing and renewal like that found in Jesus' head and heart after he suffered on the cross.
On Foreheads, Ashes Are Drawn Ashes can be distributed by a priest, pastor, or a skilled layman. They are placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross to symbolize human mortality. When the ashes are applied to the forehead, the priest says one of these: "Remember, O man, that you are dust, and you must return to dust." Or, "I am conscious of my own mortality, and I commit my body to God's keeping."
When ashes are used in baptism, they are usually mixed with water and sprinkled on the person being baptized. The sprinkling of water sanctifies the person being baptized and joins him or her to the church. If an infant is baptized, then ashes are usually applied to the forehead of the child as well.
In some cases, a priest may use incense during worship instead. The priest might sprinkle the incense over the congregation after saying a prayer over it.
If you get ashes on your head, don't worry about it. The ashes are only meant to represent your mortality. They are not actually dirt from the grave of someone who has died.
Ashes are often used in rituals related to death. During funerals, priests sometimes sprinkle them on the body of the deceased to help cleanse them and their soul of any sins they have carried with them into eternity. They are also used during exorcisms to drive out the effects of evil spirits from those who have been possessed.
Many Catholics wear the mark all day but wash it off before going to bed. Ashes also tend to flake off on their own or to be wiped away by inattentive forehead brushings. The act of washing one's face and applying creams and powders can also become a form of prayer.
CITY OF VATICAN (CNS) – The Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has encouraged priests to take extra anti-COVID-19 precautions while distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, such as sprinkling ashes on the tops of people's heads rather than making a cross on their foreheads.
The instruction comes after an Italian priest was infected with the coronavirus while administering ashes in his parish church in Rome. He had no history of travel or contact with people who had been to Iran, Italy, or South Korea — all countries where the virus is prevalent.
In the United States, ashes are usually distributed by bishops at large churches or smaller parishes on Ash Wednesday. But because of the risk of spreading the virus, dioceses are being asked not to distribute ashes in public settings during this time. Instead, individuals should prepare their own ashes and bring them to church on that day.
Priests are advised to follow safety guidelines when dressing for Mass during this time. They are also being told to use caution when celebrating other sacraments during the outbreak. Men should wear a face mask when entering a church during Lent or Holy Week. If they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should not receive communion. Women should refrain from wearing make up before going to church; if they do, they should wash their hands before eating.