Ash Wednesday in the Corona mode

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The Corona pandemic also has an impact on the liturgy on Ash Wednesday, with which Lent begins in the Catholic Church: so this year the ash rite is administered “without the usual Ash Wednesday prayer and without touching”, as determined by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship worldwide. This year, therefore, the faithful will not receive an ash cross on the forehead, but the ashes will be scattered on the head. “This form, which is common in other countries, reminds us in a very sober, realistic and obvious way of the transience of life,” explained the Austrian liturgical bishop Anton Leichtfried in an interview published by Kathpress.

Specifically, for the rite, the presider of the service says a prayer of blessing over the ashes and sprinkles the ashes with holy water without any other accompanying words. The priest, deacon, or the leader appointed by the bishop then takes the vessel with the blessed ashes and speaks one of the words provided in the missal in a well audible manner for all present. This could be the formula “Convert and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember, man, that you are dust and will return to dust,” according to the St. Poelten auxiliary bishop. “She or he then puts on an FFP2 mask and, without further words, sprinkles ashes in the shape of a cross on the head of those who approach for the imposition of ashes.” Thus, the rite is performed wordlessly and without touching, he said. After the ashes are distributed, hands are to be washed.

Intercession for Corona dead

During Ash Wednesday services this year, prayers will also be offered especially for all those who have died of Corona. This is being done as part of a Europe-wide prayer initiative. The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences has called for one country to pray especially for those who died of the Corona pandemic on each day of Lent. “Together with Albania, it is Austria’s turn right on Ash Wednesday,” said Auxiliary Bishop Leichtfried.

The Austrian Liturgical Institute has suggested the following text for the intercession: “We pray for all those who have died from the Corona pandemic: Almighty, eternal God, you are gracious and rich in mercy. Have mercy on all the men and women who died from the Corona pandemic. Receive them into your eternal kingdom and let them share in your glory.”

In the face of death and mourning, he said, the words accompanying the funeral should also be remembered this Ash Wednesday. They read, “From the earth you were taken and to the earth you are returning. But the Lord will raise you up.” It is a matter of “beginning this Lenten season with realism, seriousness and with the confidence of this good news,” the liturgical bishop held.

40-day Lent before Easter

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day Lent before Easter. Since the end of the 11th century, there has been a tradition of having an ash cross drawn on the forehead or ashes scattered on the head during church services on this day. The ashes, made from blessed palm branches from the previous year, are considered a symbol of mourning and penance.

The ash cross stands for the beginning of the Easter penitential season and at the same time for the hope of the Christians for resurrection. Ash Wednesday, along with Good Friday, is the only day that is considered a strict fast day in the Catholic Church. Canon law prescribes abstinence and fasting. Children, the elderly and the sick are exempt.

  • source: kathpress.at/picture: pixabay.com
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