Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Church Pop: Making Ash Wednesday Fun and Colorful for Millennials

Wazzup Pilipinas!

"Kailan ba Ash Wednesday? Sa Friday ba?"

It's that time of the year again to be dirty. Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Lenten season, a period of fasting, alms giving, and prayer as many prepare their hearts to receive the Risen Lord at Easter. Going to Mass to receive ashes is a beautiful penitential way to begin this spiritual season.

This is when priests put ashes resembling an image of the cross on our foreheads. From ash, and back to ash, that's how our lives start and end, if we are religious enough to believe what the Catholic church has taught us through our ancestors, and how the tradition has been practiced throughout generations.

While there is certainly an element of humility in receiving ashes in church, it consists of the public acknowledgment that we are sinners, and have begun the process of conversion by fasting, prayer, and works of charity.

So by this time you've probably seen lots of selfies or photo ops of individuals with ashes on their forehead. It has always been a viral sight on social media for everyone would want to be "in" with the fad.

Sadly, many are still unaware of the real meaning of Ash Wednesday. Some people believe that the Catholic Church actually has no place for righteousness, because it's inheritance is befuddled with Pagan practices and beliefs that were considered evil if seen during our time. They say people just do not research well enough about the historical background of their faith that is as blind as a bat. Just like if you ask them if they've heard of Mardi Gras. They will say they do know what it is, but they only know about the partying, and not the reason behind it or what follows!

But of course, there's always the theory of reincarnation when our soul comes back from to inhabit another newborn and grow up not remembering our past life. The use of ashes to symbolize our mortality has been also used to strike fear among Christians to self-reflect. Ashes are in-your-face statement that death and suffering are real.

But this theory should be the same for animals and other living things as well, especially after watching "A Dog's Purpose" movie just a day ago. But in that movie, the dog remembers his past lives very clearly.

Though there is definitely a need to self-reflect on how awesome we are, for it might just help turn the tides towards a better world! But with so much politics put in religion, I am still surprised not all has made the decision to leave Christianity. It has now become a mockery thanks to such whinny actions.

But, there's no support or mention in the Bible for an Ash Wednesday. It's something the Roman Catholic Church made up. Still, the tradition continues with so many lining up to have their foreheads ashed.

I've read somewhere that somebody even made up humorous names for ashes that seem to be of different shapes and sizes, depending on how elegantly or carelessly the priests put it. Every priest could have a different way of applying the ashes, and every person could also wear them differently.

The rubrics for Ash Wednesday say that after the blessing of ashes the priest "places the ashes on the head of all those present who come to him" First, it does not say "forehead" but "head", so the need of "drawing something" in the forehead (even a cross) is hard for me to understand.

However, many have always considered Ash Wednesday with its solemn reminder of "Remember, Man, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return" a very serious day. As we begin our Lenten observance, could we find anything edifying or helpful about this almost juvenile attempt to be jocular, even for something called "Church Pop."

I'm sure some will respond, "Lighten up, it's just meant to be funny." However, some would surely say "It's not funny. We should not make fun of Catholic sacraments."

Now, some religious leaders also want to make sure the Christian message is one of love and inclusivity, of empowering people to be who they are. So here comes glittered ashes for taking in consideration the LGBTQ community.

Wow, so we would soon have rainbow-colored ashes at our churches?

Glitter Ash Wednesday was created by Parity, a faith-based organization that works to empower LGBTQ and allied people in their spiritual life.

There are posts on Facebook calling for "all Queer-Positive Christians" to "Come Out of your Christian Closet! This Ash Wednesday, and get glittered!" They offered ashes mixed with some professional, make-up grade purple glitter so people can demonstrate that they are both Christian and supportive of all people – irrespective of sexuality or gender identity.

The concept was created to allow people to promote the fact that they are Christians that are also supportive of LGBT rights. The ashes are supposed to represent self reflection. The glitter is a very reflective substance, hence the glittering. so take note of the metaphor and literal reflection.

But others think Ash Wednesday should remain glitter-free to preserve the somber and traditional religious ritual. The ashes are a visible symbol of penance - not something to be glamoured. Using the cross in that way may be blasphemous and being Christians we should know that. There are other ways as a Christian to support the gay community. Just because one person does it it doesn't mean that it is right thing to do and then follow like sheep to the slaughter.

So who's in favor of innovating how we receive our ashes? Do we need to evolve it to make it more interesting for the liberal Millennials where many from LGBTQ community have come out in the open? Do we need to make it at least fashionable and with "identity" to match the person wearing it?

I would appreciate all your thoughts on this topic.

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