Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ash Wednesday then and now...

Every year I am struck by the contrast between the prayers over the Ashes in the Traditional and the New Roman Rite.

In the Traditional Rite, the Blessing and Imposition of Ashes takes place before the Mass begins, with the following solemn prayers of intercession and blessing:

Let us pray.   O almighty and everlasting God, spare those who are penitent, be merciful to those who implore Thee; and vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angel from heaven, to bless † and hal†low these ashes, that they may be a wholesome remedy to all who humbly implore Thy holy Name, and who accuse themselves, conscious of their sins, deploring their crimes before Thy divine mercy, or humbly and earnestly beseeching Thy sovereign goodness: and grant through the invocation of Thy most holy Name that whosoever shall be sprinkled with them for the remission of their sins may receive both health of body and safety of soul. Through Christ our Lord.
 R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who desirest not the death, but the repentance of sinners, look down most graciously upon the frailty of human nature; and in Thy goodness vouchsafe to bless † these ashes which we purpose to put opon our heads in token of our lowliness and to obtain forgiveness: so that we who know that we are but ashes, and for the demerits of our wickedness are to return to dust, may deserve to obtain of Thy mercy, the pardon of all our sins, and the rewards promised to the penitent. Through Christ our Lord.  
R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who art moved by humiliation, and appeased by penance: incline the ear of Thy goodness to our prayers and mercifully pour forth upon the heads of Thy servants sprinkled with these ashes the grace of Thy blessing: that Thou mayest both fill them with the spirit of compunction, and effectually grant what they have justly prayed for: and ordain that what Thou hast granted may be permanently established and remain unchanged. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.

Let us pray. O almighty and everlasting God, who didst vouchsafe Thy healing pardon to the Ninivites doing penance in sackcloth and ashes, mercifully grant that we may so imitate them in our outward attitude as to follow them in obtaining forgiveness. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.

 When all have received the ashes, the priest says:

V.: The Lord be with you.
R.: And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.  Grant us, O Lord, to begin with holy fasts the campaign of our Christian warfare: that, as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial. Through Christ our Lord.
R.: Amen.


In the New Rite, the blessing and imposition of ashes takes place after the Homily.  There is an invitation to prayer, followed by only one prayer over the ashes (though, as so often, a choice is offered):

Dear brethren (brothers and sisters), let us humbly ask God our Father
that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace
these ashes, which we will put on our heads in penitence.

After a brief prayer in silence, and, with hands extended, he continues:

O God, who are moved by acts of humility
and respond with forgiveness to works of penance,
lend your merciful ear to our prayers
and in your kindness pour out the grace of your blessing
on your servants who are marked with these ashes,
that, as they follow the Lenten observances,
they may be worthy to come with minds made pure
to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son.
Through Christ our Lord
R. Amen.

O God, who desire not the death of sinners,
but their conversion,
mercifully hear our prayers
and in your kindness be pleased to bless + these ashes,
which we intend to receive upon our heads,
that we, who acknowledge we are but ashes
and shall return to dust,
may, through a steadfast observance of Lent,
gain pardon for sins and newness of life
after the likeness of your Risen Son.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.


Is it me, or is that an impoverishment?


Lazarus has pointed out that I missed another telling difference. In the traditional Mass, the ashes are imposed with the words:

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

In the New Rite, there are (of course!) options:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Many parishes, it seems, use the first option: another break with tradition. Our PP, for some reason, alternated.

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