Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Head or forehead

Pope Benedict receiving ashes on his head

Ash Wednesday was a week ago, but I wanted to share with you a comment on the difference of the imposition of ashes in Europe and the USA. When I was growing up in Malta, the custom always was to place the ashes on top of the head. Moreover, the ashes were made of burnt olive branches, which made for brown-grey coloring of the ashes. The priest would place a tiny bit of ash on top of the head, as we see Pope Benedict receiving his ashes last week. The priest would pick up the ash with the thumb and forefinger, as if you were adding a pinch of salt on your soup cooking in a pot. 

On the other hand, here in the USA, we burn palm branches which make for a black type of ashes, which are marked right on the forehead, with the priest using his thumb. Either way, it is a symbol of repentance and penance.

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