Receiving Ashes – With social distancing still in place the reception of ashes will be different this year. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a modification to the rite of the imposition of ashes during liturgies on Ash Wednesday this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic:
o The note instructs us to bless the ashes and sprinkle them with holy water as usual.
o Then, rather than saying one of the two formulae to each penitent as we impose ashes, we are to say to the entire congregation at once one of the two formulae.
o We then cleanse our hands and don a face covering.
o Each penitent then comes to us and silently impose ashes on the top of the head by sprinkling.
The practice of imposing ashes on the forehead in the sign of the cross is not a universal practice; in fact, it is an uncommon one. In most of the world, and for most of the Church’s history, ashes are imposed by sprinkling on the crown of the head, in keeping with the practice as we find it in the Old Testament (cf. Joshua 6:7). As you schedule your liturgies for Ash Wednesday, please bear in mind that the Book of Blessings contains a rite for the imposition of ashes without Mass. This Rite will be used at the noon prayer service which will be led by Deacon-candidate Rob Sgambelluri.