The First Day of Lent, Sung Mass, by the Rector

The first record of ashes being used by Christians in association with penitence comes from sixth-century Spain.[1] Ashes were given to penitents who, because of serious public sin, had been publicly excommunicated.[2] A ritual for the imposition of ashes is found in the altar book for the bishop of Mainz, now Germany, in the tenth century as part of the liturgy at the beginning of Lent.[3] In spite of the words of Jesus that we just heard—always associated with the Mass for the beginning of Lent—at the end of the eleventh century, Pope Urban II decided ashes would be offered to everyone on this day in the Western Church.[4] Maybe not this year with the rain, but most years, in our city of New York, more people will enter churches today for ashes than on any other day of the year and for any other reason. I know of no other city where this is true. So what do ashes mean for us? What can ashes mean for us?
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