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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

ASH WEDNESDAY - A SACRAMENTARY OF LENT


The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. 


On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead — or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure — of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."
The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.


There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage, the reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ã†lfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men. "We read", he says,
in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.


Taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01775b.htm


Self-Will vs Surrendering All to God


Self-Will
from the book, Uniformity with God’s Will & the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ
Page 178 Detachment from Human Respect and from Self-Will

“… Unhappy the man that lives the slave of self-will!  For he shall have a yearning for many things distasteful and bitter to his inclinations:  From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence? From your concupiscences, which war in your members? You covet, and have not." (James, iv.1,2). 

The First War springs from the appetite for sensual delights Let us take away the occasion; let us mortify the eyes; let us recommend ourselves to God, and the war ill be over.

The Second War arises from the covetousness of riches: let us cultivate a love of poverty, and this war will cease.

The Third War has its source in ambitiously seeking after honors:  let us love humility and the hidden life, and this war too will be no more.

The Fourth War, and the most ruinous of all, comes from self-will: let us practice resignation in all things which happen by the will of God, and the war will cease.

St. Bernard tells us that whenever we see a person troubled, the origin of his trouble is nothing else but his inability to gratify self-will.  “Whence comes disquiet,” says the saint, “except that we follow self-will?” 

S. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi
Our Blessed Lord once complained of this to St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, in these words: “Certain souls desire My Spirit, but after their own fancy; and so they become incapable of receiving it.”

We must therefore love God in the way that pleases God, and not that pleases us.  God will have the soul divested of all, in order to be united to Himself, and to be replenished with His Divine love.  

St. Teresa writes as follows: “The prayer of union appears to me to be nothing more than to die utterly, as it were, to all things in this world, for the enjoyment of God alone.  Once this is certain, that the more completely we empty ourselves of creatures, by detaching ourselves from them for the love of God, the more abundantly will He fill us with Himself, and the more closely shall we be united with Him.” (Interior Castle, chapter 1) 

Many spiritual persons would attain to union with God; but then they do not desire the contrarieties (oppositeness, contradiction) which God sends them: they fret at having to suffer from ill-health, from poverty, from affronts; but, for want of resignation, they will never come to a perfect union with God. 

St. Catherine of Genoa
Let us hear what St. Catherine of Genoa said: “To arrive at union with God, the contrarieties which God sends us are absolutely necessary; His purpose is, to consume in us, by means of them, all irregular movements, both within and without.  And hence all contempt, ailments, poverty, temptations, and other trials, are all indispensable, to give us the opportunity of fighting; that so, by the way of victory, we may eventually extinguish all inordinate movements, so as to be no more sensible of them; furthermore, until we begin to find contradictions sweet for God’s sake, instead of bitter, we shall never arrive at Divine union.”

I here subjoin the practice of it, taught by St. John of the Cross.
St. John of the Cross
  The Saint says, that in order to perfect union, “a thorough mortification of the senses and of the appetites is necessary.  On the part of the senses, every single relish that presents itself to them, if it be not purely for the glory of God, should forthwith be rejected for the love of Jesus Christ; for example, should you have a desire to see or hear something in no wise conductive to the greater glory of God, then refrain from it.  As to the appetites also, endeavor to force ourselfs always to choose the worst, the most disagreeable, or the poorest, without fostering any other wish than to suffer and to be despised.”


In a word, he that truly loves Jesus Christ loses all affection for things of earth, and seeks to strip himself of all, in order to keep himself united with Jesus Christ alone.  


Jesus is the object of all his desires, 
Jesus the subject of all his thoughts; 
for Jesus he continually sighs; 
in every place, at every time, 
on every occasion, 
his sole aim is to give pleasure to Jesus.  

But to reach this point, we must study unceasingly to rid the heart of every affection which is not for God.  

And, I ask, what is meant by giving the soul entirely to God?  

It means, first, 
to shun whatever may be displeasing to God, 
and to do what is most pleasing to Him; 
secondly, it means to accept unreservedly all that comes 
from His hands, how hard or disagreeable soever it may be; 
it means, thirdly, to give the preference in all things 
to the will of God over our own; 
this is what is meant by belonging wholly to God.