MANILA – This year's Ash Wednesday would make use of cotton balls for the faithful who wish to have ashes on their forehead, according to the guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on Liturgy.
Bishop Victor Bendico, chairperson of the commission, said Monday that in observance of the health protocols, they have come up with options to put ashes on the faithful. Among the new guidelines to be implemented are the sprinkling of ashes on the head or on their forehead but with the use of cotton balls.
The faithful would also be allowed to impose the ashes on their family members.
"One way is by sprinkling the ashes on the head of the faithful. For those among the faithful who wish to have the ashes on their forehead, another way is by using cotton balls in applying ashes on their forehead," Bendico said.
"Each of the faithful who wants to receive the imposition of ashes approaches the minister. The minister, with the aid of a cotton ball dipped into the vessel of the blessed ashes, traces the cross on the forehead of the faithful. The minister uses a different cotton ball for each of the faithful,” he added.
Since many Catholics are still unable to go to church for the Ash Wednesday celebration due to the limitations imposed by the government on church attendance, the CBCP has recommended that the faithful who could come to church be given a small plastic sachet containing blessed ashes that they, in turn, can impose to their family members.
"Those who cannot come to church on this day can join the celebration of the Mass of Ash Wednesday on TV and other online means. They then receive the ashes from family members who were able to go to church for the celebration and will bring home ashes for them,” he said.
During the celebration of Ash Wednesday, the priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything, then he addresses all those present. He would say the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel", or" Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Since the pandemic last year, the Catholic church has issued guidelines to help pastors and Christian communities in the proper celebration of the liturgy.
"Our Liturgical celebrations, especially the Lenten season, Paschal Triduum, and Easter Season of 2020, have been modified to keeping the essentials while helping our faithful experience with the same solemnity and fruitfulness the Paschal mystery of the Lord,” Bendico said.
He said the liturgical recommendations issued last year would be used in the celebration of Ash Wednesday.
The ashes that will be used for this year's Ash Wednesday can be obtained from dried branches or leaves of plants or trees since many parishes will find it difficult to secure old palm branches blessed in the celebration of Palm Sunday of 2020, Bendico added.
“Our celebration last year was in the absence of our people on account of the strict lockdown and only few palm branches were blessed on the occasion,” he said.
Roman Catholics worldwide will celebrate on Feb. 17, Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten Season. (PNA)