The ashes are a blessing? Part two
I have appreciated the comments left on my original post. And I agree with their observations. They reinforce the need for me to carefully explain my point, which I failed to do. I was rather imprecise in my original post. I wasn't trying to deny that the ashes, which are blessed, are a sacramental or that they do impart the blessing of grace. What I had hoped to communicate, though, is that it seems to me the focus needs to be on a reminder of mortality, sinfulness, and penance. My original wording was a reaction, and perhaps a dose of isigesis!, to the full quote from Pastor Dawn regarding the significance of ashes, which reads "It's a laying on of hands, a blessing."
Certainly, blessing is an aspect of the practice. One comment noted the prayer of blessing of the ashes, which reveals that a blessing upon the persons present is being asked. That blessing, one of two options for the blessing of ashes found in the English translation of the Roman Missal, reads:
Lord, bless the sinner who asks for your forgiveness
and bless all those who receive these ashes.
May they keep this lenten season
in preparation for the joy of Easter.
This raises another issue for me; perhaps one about which I should blog separately. I really dislike a good portion of the blessings currently in use in the Roman Ritual. This is no comment on the validity of the above option for blessing. However, where in that prayer are the ASHES blessed? The current blessings in the ritual, so often seem to speak about everything and anything OTHER than the thing for which the blessing has been composed! It drives me crazy. I often opt to use blessings from older rituals (much more poetic, beautiful, and powerful, in my opinion). For Ash Wednesday, I always opt for the second option of ash blessing, which I find more agreeable:
Lord, bless these ashes
by which we show that we are dust.
Pardon our sins
and keep us faithful to the discipline of Lent,
for you do not want sinners to die,
but to live with the risen Christ,
who reigns with you for ever and ever.
By the way, for the second time now in as many days, our local paper has featured a Lutheran ecclesial community in explaining the practice of Ash Wednesday. Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!