Illustration: UNA VOCE OF ORANGE COUNTY
Artist: Rene de Cramer.
Used with Permission.
Text from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.
Station at Saint Sabina.
Indulgence of 15 years and 15 Quarantines.
English: Santa Sabina, Rome.
Česky: Interiér baziliky Santa Sabina, Řím.
Photo: February 2009.
Source: Own work.
Today's Station at Rome is at Saint Sabina, on The Aventine, in a Sanctuary built on the former site of the Holy Martyr's house. Having been converted by her maid-servant, she was beheaded for The Faith and secretly buried. It is to this Church that, in former times, the Pope used to go barefoot "to begin, with Holy Fasts, the exercises of Christian warfare, that as we do battle with The Spirits of Evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial" [The Prayer at The Blessing of The Ashes]. In the 5th-Century A.D., this Church was one of the twenty-five Parishes of Rome.
Following the example of The Ninivites, who did Penance in sackcloth and ashes, The Church today, to humble our pride and remind us of the sentence of death, which, as a consequence of our sins we are bound to undergo, sprinkles ashes on our heads with the words: "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return". [Ashes are a symbol of Penance and, having become a Sacramental by The Church's Blessing, help to develop within us the spirit of humility and sacrifice.] We come from dust and unto dust we shall return ! Here, indeed, is a thought that should humble our pride.
In this custom, we have the remains of an ancient ceremony referred to in The Roman Pontifical. Those Christians who were guilty of grave faults had to undergo public Penance. Accordingly, on Ash Wednesday, the Bishop used to Bless the sackcloth, which was to be worn by the penitents during The Holy Forty Days, and place upon their heads ashes made from palms used the previous year in The Palm Sunday Procession. Then, while The Faithful were singing The Seven Penitential Psalms, "the penitents were expelled from The Holy Place on account of their sins, just as Adam was driven out of Paradise because of his disobedience". [Roman Pontifical.] They were not allowed to put off their penitential garb or to re-enter the Church before Holy Thursday, after they had gained their reconciliation by toil and Penance, and by Sacramental Confession and Absolution.
English: Interior of Santa Sabina, Aventine, Rome.
Français: Interieur de l'église de Santa Sabina, Aventin, Rome.
Source: Own work.
At The Council of Beneventum (1091), Pope Urban VI commanded that the ashes should be received by all The Faithful, indiscriminately. Let us receive them in a spirit of humility and Penance, that, by this powerful Sacramental, we may obtain from Almighty God the Blessings which The Church implores in the act of Blessing them.
For, truly, "God overlooks the sins of men for the sake of repentance" (Introit). He is "rich in mercy" to those who are "converted to Him with all their heart in Fasting and in weeping and in mourning" (Epistle). We must not, indeed, like the Pharisees, rend our garments as a sign of grief, but, rather, our hearts" (ibid.), for it is not men who are to testify to our Fasting, but Our Father, Who sees our innermost Souls and will repay us (Gospel), as Our Lord, Himself, tells us in The Sermon on The Mount. [According to Tradition, this Mount is Kurn Hattin.] Let us, then, draw from The Eucharist the help which we need (Postcommunion), so that, celebrating today the institution of this Sacred Fast (Secret), we may "perform it with a devotion which nothing can disturb" (Collect).
THE BLESSING OF THE ASHES.
Before Mass, Ashes are Blessed. These Ashes are made from the Palms which were Blessed in the previous year's Palm Sunday Procession. The formula used in the Blessing dates from about the 8th-Century A.D.
After The Office of None, the Priest, Vested in Alb and Violet Stole, with or without a Violet Cope, with Deacon and Sub-Deacon in Vestments of the same colour, goes up to The Altar and The Choir begins singing.
After the appropriate Prayers have been said by the Priest, he sprinkles Holy Water on The Ashes and then Incenses them, three times. The Faithful then receive The Ashes on their foreheads.
Mass then commences.
Mass: Miseréris omnium.
Collect: Praesta Domine.
Other Collects: Until Passion Sunday: A cunctis and Omnipotens.
Preface: For Lent.
The Dismissal: Benedicamus Domino, as at any Mass without The Gloria.