Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Another ash Wednesday has come and gone and once again my forehead remains ash free. As a child growing up in the RCC Ash Wednesday meant more that just the start of lent, to us it meant a half day off from school! We would hop on the "parochial bus" and be carted off to the local RCC building of our parents choice where the priest would hold mass and apply the ashes to our foreheads. We were told that the ashes were from burnt palm branches left over from last Palm Sunday, but we in our 6th grade wisdom knew it was mostly ashes from Monsignor Logal's White Owl cigars. (If that were actually true Monsignor Logal could probably keep the entire Buffalo Diocese supplied in enough ash to make Ash Wednesday a monthly occurrence)

Of course we weren't totally sure of why we were carrying around a blob of ashes on our foreheads other than "it's the beginning of lent", we didn't have Sunday School, and what religious education we did receive was indoctrination in the Catholic catechism, which unless you're an overexcited theology student was a slow method of torture for meat eating 12 year olds. As for bible education - there was none. 

Flash forward a few decades and several prayerful readings of the Bible later and I'm now a member of a biblically centered Christian church, and we don't do ashes, fasting before communion, or fish frys. I really miss western New York fish frys. But why do we not do Ashes and fasting during lent? (Then again we also don't do a Bacchanalia on the Tuesday before lent either) I mean, we are much more biblically oriented than the RCC by a very long shot, so why not the ashes... and sackcloth?

There's several different reasons for wearing ashes on the forehead given by the Roman Catholic church. Their "biblical" response is that there's over forty passages in the Bible associate ashes with mourning and grief. In Old Testament times people used ashes as a sign of repentance. They would sit in ashes, roll around in them, sprinkle them upon their heads, or even mingle them with their food and drink. They did this as an outward sign of their inward posture of repentance. Catholics believe that wearing ashes is an outward sign of repentance and mourning.

The "traditional" response is that ashes are a sign of physical death, as in 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust.' We began as dust (a joyless and lifeless existence), and our bodies will return to dust until we are raised up by Christ. By receiving ashes and keeping them on, Catholics are publicly proclaiming their intent to die to worldly desires and live even more in Christ's image.

The historic response is the most accurate: for over twelve hundred years on the dies cinerum (day of ashes) Catholics have received ashes upon their foreheads. These ashes are made from the burnt palm fronds that were blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water, usually fragranced with incense and blessed using four prayers that are thousands of years old. In other words, we do this because we've almost always done this. 

So is Ash Wednesday biblical?

No. Sorry. Ash Wednesday is not found in the bible, in fact its origins are pagan. Lent originated in the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. “The forty days’ abstinence of Lent was directly borrowed from the worshippers of the Babylonian goddess…Among the Pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz” (The Two Babylons).

Tammuz was the false Messiah of the Babylonians—a satanic counterfeit of Jesus Christ.

The Feast of Tammuz was usually celebrated in June (also called the “month of Tammuz”). Lent was held 40 days before the feast, “celebrated by alternate weeping and rejoicing.” This is why Lent means “spring”; it took place from spring to early summer.

The Bible records ancient Judah worshiping this false Messiah:
14 Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. 15 He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? Yet you will see still greater abominations than these.” (Ezekiel 8:14-15)
As for the new testament Jesus is quite clear about celebrating the way the Roman Catholich church demands: 
1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:1-2)
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:5)
16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (Matthew 6:16)
It is quite clear that boasting and bragging are not what Jesus wants us to do when we worship the Lord, We need to keep in mind it's all about Him, not us, and walking around with ashes on our forehead is not a reminder to us, we can't even see it, it's a message to the outside world - look at me! look at me! Instead Jesus tells us to wash our faces and be humble:
17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)
3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)
 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Let us be quick to encourage each other but just as quick to  humble ourselves before the Lord

Thank you to Erin at Do Not Be Surprised for the reminder that humility is more than a way of life, it's a command from Our Lord.

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