What's up with Ashes?

As we learn from Whispers, it's a monumental event at St. Patrick's:

"With the penitential season's opening day drawing ever closer, it's worth recalling that Ash Wednesday is invariably the Midtown landmark's busiest day of the year; upwards of 60,000 workers and tourists annually flood St Patrick's to receive the burnt palm symbolizing man's mortality and need for redemption."

But this was true at the chapel on campus when I was in college too. People who otherwise would never have graced the doorway of a church were presenting themselves for ashes at the Wednesday mass. It was packed!


What is this need? People who don't even show up for Christmas/Easter will show up on this purple day. Is there a residual sense of sin in our culture? Is there a feeling that, "I am unworthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed" ???

How interesting that, our culture, amnesiac towards God on all other days of the year, suddenly stands before Him sinful and sorrowful.

I am reminded of the time I went to Rosh Hashanah with a young man who had not been to temple in years. He went on the Day of Atonement, and while the minister incanted the prayers of mercy, I saw tears rolling from his eyes.

Yes. We should stand before God sinful and sorrowful. It's meet and just.

We need ashes.

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