Ashes on Your Head


Ashes on Your Head

In Chaldean culture (Chaldeans being Catholics from Iraq) there is an expression that, roughly translated, means “ashes on your head.” It’s meant to be an insult. That expression popped into my head as I was contemplating Ash Wednesday.

In Biblical times, mourners would cover themselves in ashes as a symbol of their grief. And today, Catholics all over the world will be marked with ashes on their forehead and the reminder, “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

The ritual is a deeply humbling one, and from the crowds I encounter each year at Ash Wednesday services, an immensely popular one. I think we want to begin Lent in a posture of humility and prayer. I think, like giving something up for Lent, we long to express our Catholic identity.

So if you notice someone walking by with a smudge upon his or her forehead, resist the urge to say, “You’ve got a little sumpin sumpin on your forehead.” They know.


2 thoughts on “Ashes on Your Head

  1. Ha Mary, this made me laugh a bit. Not only is there “ashes on your head, there is also “ashes on your situation” (John will know that one) Speaking of lent, Bianca has given up all meat and dairy products. So its not only a sacrifice for her, but she sure didn’t think of her mom in this whole equation. I have to make two meals every day! One for her without meat and diary, and then one for my carnivore husband and boys.
    On Sunday, as I was making wonderful pancakes, humming to the music and thinking how nice it would be that we can all eat the same thing, Bianca comes downstairs and I gleefully say “Good Morning! We are all going to have Pancakes and Hash Browns”. Expecting her to give me an approval shout of joy-(who am I kidding? this is Bianca) She looks over at my pan and says “I’m not eating that. You made it with Butter”.. Uggg All I can say is “Ashes on MY head”!!


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