Unblessed Ashes. The holy water is in the aspersorium, in which rests the aspergillum. Fat Tuesday Celebrations soon conclude then the ashes are blessed and distributed. Marking our foreheads marks the official beginning of Lent officially.
I remember tutoring a young Japanese Woman spending her first Ash Wednesday in the states and she had no idea what it was about. A friend of mine, Orthodox Jew who grew up in Staten Island, told me how as a kid he was freaked out going into New York and seeing the ashes on foreheads. I was surprised since there are plenty of Catholics on the hidden borough but apparently, he grew up in a cloistered community. Funny no matter how far or how close you are some things will still be foreign.
I was raised Catholic so the Ashes that begin Lent are not news to me. I’m not sure exactly what I get out of this sacramental, but introspection always ensues. Any reason to reflect should be welcomed. Ashes are not exactly in the Gospels – although Ash images are throughout scripture – but the Gospel reading is always the same. Matthew chapter six, where Jesus teaches the apostles not just how to pray, but why – because God always hears. The reading inspires contemplation of not being alone and that there is a goodness that is supreme and beyond our material world. Christmas and Easter, the specific Gospel can change, since those pieces of the life of Jesus have different accounts. Ash Wednesday is pure Dogma and tradition. I guess you can either appreciate that or you can’t.
...when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father, which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly
Matthew 6: 6