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Reply to "Celebrating Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday"

Making Ashes

The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are traditionally made by mixing olive oil with ashes of the palms that were used in the previous year's Palm Sunday celebration.  Below are some suggestions for burning the palms, and also some really interesting thoughts from various people on the MEANING of burning and applying palm ashes.

Burning and making the ashes can be a terrific activity for children and youth, and can be accompanied by its own meaningful ritual and prayers.

To get the good ash, you can’t just burn them. You have to let them smolder with little oxygen, and that’s where it gets the real charcoal black. If you just burn them in an open container, the ash will be grey.

If you don't have any palms to burn, you can buy palm ash online at religious supply stores.

Why Impose Ashes

A quote from

“There’s something about the simplicity of admitting that we need God that … a lot of people feel solidarity with,” he explained. “There’s something of a "wonder" about it because you’re marking yourself with the cross. Maybe it’s the humility of it; not just receiving the ashes, but receiving the little prayer we do as people receive ashes.

“There’s something about the ashes that calls upon our humanity.”

A quote from http://kirkepiscatoid.blogspot...rush-em-to-dust.html

The palms slated for burning represent a year's worth of things in a person's life that were "not quite right." They are the old things, the dried out things, the dessicated things, the things we'd like to have a do-over, the promises to God that were broken. They are the things worth repenting, the things worth burying, the things worth dispersing. It's good to watch them burn.

After they are burned, the next step is to pulverize them to dust. I usually use something like the bottom of an old coffee cup to grind them down. It feels renewing, somehow, to take those burned leaves and crush them to a fine powder.

But for me, burning and pulverizing the ashes gives me a fuller sense of what it means for our sins to be forgiven, for God to no longer remember them, for them to be flung as far as east is from west. I think about how everyone walks out of the service on Ash Wednesday with the "same dirt" on them. My sins are not so unique. They're the same as everyone else's. We bear the corporate burden of each other's sins. We're not so much our brother's keeper as we are our brother's sibling. All our sins are made up of the same DNA, so to speak.

What makes the Ash Wednesday service unique is it's the one time we go forward twice--the first time to accept our common sins, and the second time to receive a common meal. There's a tendency, I think, to think of the "sins" part, the "From dust you came and to dust you will return" part as a solo adventure, but in reality, it's just as common and corporate as the meal.

A quote from a leader talks about having her Confirmation class burn the palms, from

"When the palms were all burned, we pulled ourselves together for a closing prayer. Standing in a circle around the grill, we held hands and gave thanks for the presence of the Holy Spirit in that fire and in those holy moments. We asked God’s blessing for each person there, servants of God, and on the ashes that would be signs of God’s love for each person who received them, this year and for many more."

"These Ash Wednesday ashes are now infused with special meaning. Sure, they are an outward symbol of the Lenten journey of repentance. But they are also infused with holy laughter and blessed with the full-of-life spirits of now-confirmed, young Christians."

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