Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ash Wednesday

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

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


Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in the Western Church.  We are called to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel, to dedicate ourselves anew to prayer and works of charity, and to restrain our misguided subjection to our passions (the result of Original Sin) by mortification and good deeds.

Humility and obedience are little valued by the World, which teaches self-esteem and autonomy as the highest human values.  We are called to be a sign of contradiction.

The ashes which we receive are a sign of this (note that we receive them humbly, not take them...)  


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 upon 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.

Or:


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?

There is, of course, 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 (inevitably!) options:

Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

Or:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Many parishes, it seems, use the first option: another break with tradition.

***


Here is the Lenten Hymn: Attende Domine (English translation below the Latin text)

(NB: The Marian Antiphon for the season, of course, is the Ave Regina Caelorum.)






Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.
Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Ad te Rex summe,
omnium Redemptor,
oculos nostros
sublevamus flentes:
exaudi, Christe,
supplicantum preces.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Dextera Patris,
lapis angularis,
via salutis,
ianua caelestis,
ablue nostri
maculas delicti.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Rogamus, Deus,
tuam maiestatem:
auribus sacris
gemitus exaudi:
crimina nostra
placidus indulge.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Tibi fatemur
crimina admissa:
contrito corde
pandimus occulta:
tua, Redemptor,
pietas ignoscat.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Innocens captus,
nec repugnans ductus;
testibus falsis
pro impiis damnatus
quos redemisti,
tu conserva, Christe.

Attende Domine, et miserere, quia peccavimus tibi.

Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.
Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.


To Thee, highest King,
Redeemer of all,
do we lift up our eyes
in weeping:
Hear, O Christ, the prayers
of your servants.


Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

Right hand of the Father,
corner-stone, 
way of salvation,
gate of heaven,
wash away our 
stains of sin.


Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, God,
in Thy great majesty:
Hear our groans
with Thy holy ears:
calmly forgive
our crimes.


Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

To Thee we confess
our sins admitted
with a contrite heart
We reveal the things hidden:
By Thy kindness, O Redeemer,
overlook them.


Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

The Innocent, seized,
not refusing to be led;
condemned by false witnesses
because of impious men
O Christ, keep safe those
whom Thou hast redeemed.


Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee.

On a lighter note, though still on track with the season, there's always the Dogma Dogs: Lent, Lent, time to repent!

3 comments:

Part-time Pilgrim said...

The prayer

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.

Is in the newer rite as the Collect (and better translated than your version) (unless the Latin is different)

Collect

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Matthew said...

The blessing of the ashes in the OF is also complicated by the fact that, though the priest tells us that the ashes are about to be blessed (let us humbly ask God our Father that he be pleased to bless with the abundance of his grace these ashes), the first blessing doesn't seem to have as its subject the ashes, but rather the faithful (pour out the grace of your blessing on your servants who are marked with these ashes). Only the second blessing given in the Missal actually blesses the ashes!

FWIW, the 1st blessing option in the OF Missal appears to be based on the 3rd Oratio in the 1962 Missal, with the second half of the prayer changed, and the 2nd blessing option in the OF Missal (the one that actually blesses the ashes!) appears to be based on the 2nd Oratio in the 1962 Missal, with some extensive changes:

OF Latin: Deus, qui non mortem sed conversiónem desíderas peccatórum, preces nostras cleménter exáudi, et hos cíneres, quos capítibus nostris impóni decérnimus, benedícere + pro tua pietáte dignáre, ut qui nos cínerem esse et in púlverem reversúros cognóscimus, quadragesimális exercitatiónis stúdio, peccatórum véniam et novitátem vitae, ad imáginem Fílii tui resurgéntis, cónsequi valeámus.

EF Latin (changes, omissions): Deus, qui non mortem, sed paeniténtiam desíderas peccatórum: fragilitátem condiciónis humánae benigníssime réspice; et hos cíneres, quos causa proferéndae humilitátis, atque promeréndae véniae, capítibus nostris impóni decérnimus, bene+dícere pro tua pietáte dignàre: ut, qui nos cínerem esse, et ob pravitátis nostrae deméritum in púlverem reversúros cognóscimus; peccatórum ómnium véniam, et praemia paeniténtibus repromíssa, misericórditer cónsequi mereámur.

So, in the 2nd OF blessing, "conversion" is substituted for "repentance", and the phrase "newness of life after the likeness of your Risen Son" has been substituted for "may deserve to obtain from Thy mercy the rewards promised". The word "all" has been chopped from the phrase "pardon for all our sins". Missing entirely are: "look down most graciously upon the frailty of human nature", "in token of our lowliness and to obtain forgiveness", and "for the demerits of our wickedness".

Well, never mind. I suppose the prayer as it is in the 1962 Missal had to be impoverished/edited - for the benefit of "modern man", of course!

Part-time Pilgrim said...

The placing of the blessing and distribution of ashes in the OF is odd (or at least so it seems to me). The EF having this at the start is more sensible.