After Ash Wednesday services last week, social media included photos of people trading in a hashtag for an “ashtag” while sporting the traditional cross of ashes on their foreheads. I thought it was clever. It was fun to see social media display people’s excitement about a Christian tradition.
Over the weekend my dad asked if we told our students to wash their ashes off after the service. Confused as to why we’d do that, I responded “no”. He informed me that Archbishop Jackels had published an article in The Witness (An Archdiocese newspaper) asking people to “look for the first opportunity after Mass to wash the ashes off our forehead.” My dad even had a women ask him why he hadn’t done so later in the day. It was news to him.
I had to know more!
I checked out The Witness myself. Sure enough, there it is stating we should wash off our ashes asap. Archbishop explains that just as fasting or giving something up, this is between God and ourselves. We are “not to parade in front of others for them to see”.
I definitely never thought of it that way. When I would run an errand or go to they gym directly after leaving school with ashes on I felt like it was a mark that showed I was a sinner. It was a mark that I was using Lent to better myself. It was a mark that displayed I valued my faith. I never thought about it as a “I went to church. What did you do?” symbol.
The Bible supports Archbishop Jackles’ message (do not tell your right hand what your left is doing), but it’s hard to forget the teachings we received in elementary school to be careful NOT to brush our ashes off. The message I’ve always heard is to let them come off naturally.
Christian readers, where do you stand on this topic? Will you be washing off your ashes next year or posting an #ashtag?