Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday or Wash Wednesday?

Jesus said: "When thou fastest ... wash thy face" (Matthew 6:17).

Choose whom you will serve.

H.T. Biglo


Ryan said...

"therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” job 42:6

Mitch said...

What do you make of the post on Parchment and Pen that traces Lent to as early as the disciples? I believe the post states that it started as a 40 hour fast, but somewhere along the lines changed to 40 days.

Appreciate your view on this.

turretinfan said...

The habit of fasting is one thing. The habit of pushing ash on your face, so everyone can see that you are fasting is another thing. "Lenten" and other fasting is a very old custom.

turretinfan said...

Thanks for that comment, Ryan. Is your understanding of that verse the reason you don't wash your face, as Jesus plainly said?

Brian said...

Hi Turretinfan, We Catholics are called to fast/abstain many times throughout the liturgical year. However, today is the only day that ashes are applied. This should tell you that although the act of fasting and the application of the ashes may coincide, they reflect two separate intentions. The ashes are tied to Genesis 3:19. We Catholics wear them as a reminder of our bodily mortality, not as an advertisement of our fasting. If the Church stipulated that ashes be applied every time a fast is required, then I think your point would be valid.

Philip Jude said...

Yes, we read this fine Scripture at Mass, lest we take pride in our coming abstinence.

Thankfully, we Catholics are guided by the ancient wisdom of the Church, and so possess the good common sense to realize that Christ was chastising men who made a habit of public piety while entertaining pride within their sick hearts.

Anyway, the ashes are not even meant to signal our fasting, but as reminders of man's mortality and sinfulness. If we wore ashes every fast day, then perhaps you would have a point.

Do you think Catholics are so ignorant as to be alarmed by this kind of gimmick? You are a smart guy. Even though I often disagree with you, nevertheless I typically find you insightful -- but this is just cheap and sloppy.

Try again.

Philip Jude said...

They are indeed tied to Genesis 3:19, as Brian said. However, they are also connected with remorse for sin.

The Lord said, "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes" (Matthew 11:21).

Ashes are proper Biblical signs of repentance. Thus the priest says, as he daubs them on, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

Philip Jude said...

Anything that inspires this -- -- is alright by me!

Ljdibiase said...

Ah, but they're not just any old ashes. They're holy ashes, blessed and sprinkled by the priest, with their own special prayer. I guess you can make it sound biblical if you want (it has to fool the masses, after all), but really it involves Romish sacramentology, false views of penance, ceremonialism, etc. Some times I wonder whether you guys really don't understand what your church is about, or if you just think we don't.

Natamllc said...

I edit myself, here:

I think you have been deceived by those who do not rightly divide the Word of God. If you were not deceived, you will sincerely and instantly cast off all these burdens you write about that I have highlighted above!

I should have reviewed before publishing!

Brian said...

Hi Natamllc,

Thanks for your note. The logic of fasting is like this: How can I put down this or that sin (jealousy, lust, etc) if I can't even put down a cheeseburger.? Fasting helps me to discipline my passions so that I can better directed them toward their proper end, Jesus.

Natamllc said...


what about this then?

Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Do you see the difference in a works righteousness religious system and that there taught by the Apostle Paul?

How about this, also?

1Pe 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1Pe 5:11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see the point I am making then?

Reread what you wrote and ask yourself why are you fasting? You said what you are doing helps you do something else you do, right?

Well, a monergistic point of view simply rejects that and brings God glory with every bit of living and dying, with a clear understanding that dead people do nothing for themself or for others.

Either you are dead in trespasses and sins or you are not.

Either you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God or it is not.

Do you understand the distinctions being made?

Brian said...

Hi Netamllc,

I understand the points you make, but I think you're responding to a separate argument than the one I made.

Best wishes.

Scott Windsor said...

The fasting and the ashes are really two different things.

The ashes are to remind you "from dust you came and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19).

Fasting is to mortify the body, to eat only one full meal for the day (and two small snacks which if combined would not add up to a full meal). A little bit of suffering to call into remembrance the suffering of our Lord and Savior. When you get that little hunger twinge, you turn your thoughts to Jesus. Jesus fasted for 40 days before He began His public ministry - and Ash Wednesday begins 40 days of penance prior to Easter (not counting Sundays because every Sunday is a solemnity and we are not obliged to fast or abstain on solemnities). The 40 days of penance (offering something up for Lent). Again, the focus is upon Christ - as it should be.

Abstinence from meat (which you did not bring up, but is also part of Ash Wednesday and ALL Fridays - not just Lent!) is similar in reason to the fasting. When you would have had that cheeseburger turn your mind to Jesus and remember WHY you're not having that cheeseburger! When you're at dinner with friends and someone orders a big steak - again, your focus returns to Christ and you're reminded WHY you are ordering fish instead of that steak! Every Friday throughout the year is like a "little Good Friday" - when we're called to remember Jesus' humiliation, suffering and death upon the Cross between two thieves. Now, during Lent this abstinence must be from meat - during the rest of the year it MAY be something else equivalent to meat, as permitted by ones local ecclesiastic council. It MAY still be meat! As for me and my family, we stick to abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout the year. Giving up meat on Fridays has LONG been identified with Catholicism, so why faithful Catholics would not want to continue to be identified with this is baffling to me. We should EMBRACE who and what we ARE!

So, there are really THREE things we do on Ash Wednesday - and while all are to focus our thoughts on Christ - the ashes are not part of the fasting or the abstinence, nor are any of these practices part of the other. They are all separate acts which we happen to do all on one day.

If you understood WHY we do what we do - you might not be so critical.

Natamllc said...


"If you understood WHY we do what we do - you might not be so critical."

You must not understand. It is precisely because we do understand that we are so critical of the RCC faith and practice!

You must believe former Catholics, such as I was, don't understand the RCC relgion, why and what you do, in practicing your faith faithfully as taught to you by the RCC?

Quite the contrary. It is because of it that I, at least, see so clearly the errors of your ways and Roman Catholicism.

One simple verse and some commentary might assist you in this protestation of your words above?

Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

One only understand: "for He will save His people from their sins" to understand why I have set aside the burdens of the RCC, giving way to the Faith once delivered to the Saint that teaches the simplicity of the Gospel, Christ and Him crucified.

It is the "work" He did on my behalf, (His equitable deed) even still, by it He saves His people, me, one who He is still saving from myself and the error of my ways, daily, that caused me to convulse what I was being taught and request that I be permitted to cease going to the catechism class at St. Joseph's and eventually, cease going to Mass and eventually after coming to enlightened state of mind by the sanctification work of the Holy Spirit and being so now I fervently look solely upon Christ and what He has accomplished for the salvation of my soul from my flesh, this world and the devils and their doctrines!

dp said...

I assume that you have no problem with Orthodox Lent, which begins with "Clean Monday" (where one traditional practice is to clean up your home)?

Scott Windsor said...

I, a former Protestant, understand your position quite well. I disagree with your rationalizations and took quite the opposite path. I found THE Church which Jesus Christ Himself promised to build. I came to the realization that He didn't wait 1500+ years to build that Church. Christianity was alive and well for those 1500+ years - now nearly 2000 years - and if you go back say, 800 years - you won't find a single "Protestant" community. You will only find Catholics and Orthodox! Go back a couple hundred more years and you will find Catholicism and Orthodoxy united as ONE Church - just as is the divine desire of our God.

John 17:21-22:
21That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

22And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one.

500 years after Orthodoxy split with that ONE Church began the continuing divisions of Protestantism. These are facts you truly cannot get around, regardless of how much rationalization you attempt to put into your argumentation.

So, not only do you not partake in the sacramentals we're discussing here - you also do not share in His Real Presence in the Eucharist, which is truly the central teaching of the Catholic Church. I pray that one day you will come home to that ONE Church you left behind.


Scott Windsor said...

I don't! I have not heard of this tradition, but I certainly have no problem with it!

Philip Jude said...

Jesus said, "When you fast..." He clearly expected His followers to fast. The tradition of Christian fasting is well documented all the way back to the apostolic era (ex: Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, a disciple of John, in his letter to Victor I of Rome).

Fasting is a way of sharing in the sufferings of Christ. It is cross-bearing. "For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too" (2 Cor 1:5).

Ancient apostolic Christianity -- as opposed to many Protestants' modern, occidental, and rationalistic Christianity -- is based upon the idea of participation. We participate in the life of Christ. We gladly taste His sorrows and His triumphs.

St. Paul said, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church."

St. Augustine commented on those words:

"“If then you are among the members of Christ, whatever human being you are, whoever you are that hears this, whoever you are that does not hear this (but if you are among the members of Christ you do hear this), whatever you suffer at the hands of those who are not among the members of Christ was lacking to the sufferings of Christ.

Your sufferings are added because they were lacking. You fill up a measure, you do not pour something that overflows. You suffer as much as needed to be added from your sufferings to the total suffering of Christ, who suffered as our head, and suffers in his members, that is, in ourselves.

Each one of us in his own measure pays his debt to what may be called this commonwealth of ours. In proportion to our store of strength we contribute as it were a tax of suffering. The final reckoning of all suffering will not take place until the world has come to an end” (St. Augustine)."

Philip Jude said...

Anyway, you critics do realize that Ash Wednesday, fasting, and Lent are not exclusive to Catholicism, right? Many Protestant denominations practice all three, and certainly the Orthodox, Oriental, Nestorian, Coptic, and Ethiopian churches practice the second two disciplines.

Philip Jude said...


"I ask you again. Isn't what Christ has done, once, for all, not enough for you to obtain eternal redemption? Why, if He is your Lord and Savior, do you then go beyond the Faith once delivered to the Saints, a faith that holds that Christ's death, burial and resurrection is sufficient for our Salvation, a salvation none of us is called upon to do any works to obtain,"

Mark 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

"Or, any one of the other practices found being laid upon the backs of the faithful followers of Rome, followers found carrying these burdens all around the world?"

They are not burdensome to me at all. They are delightful and refreshing and liberating. I love receiving the sacraments of the Church, through which I can taste, see, and touch the grace of God.

I have heard this strange charge before: that the practices and sacraments of Rome (not just Rome -- but Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, etc.) are burdensome. Yet the practices have been naught but godly markers on the path to knowing Christ; the sacraments have been safe havens in the storm of fleshly evil, and visible wells of God's grace suitable for the smallness and corporeality of man.

dp said...

Scott Windsor,

I was referring to the original post/author, with the object of pointing out the silliness of "gotcha" apologetics.

Scott Windsor said...

No prob dp. I should have included a "smiley" with my post. :-)