Safe alternatives for Ash Wednesday
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Several quarantine restrictions and health protocols remain in place as the Philippines is set to mark the start of the Lenten Season this 2021, or a year after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) changed everything.
And the Archdiocese of Cebu has rolled out guidelines to help both parishes and devotees here in celebrating a safe Ash Wednesday.
Read: What is Ash Wednesday?
The Archdiocesan Commission on Worship issued a memorandum on February 4, 2021, named Guidelines on the Ash Wednesday Celebration: The Distribution of Ashes in the Time of Pandemic.
It was signed by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
“As we approach the celebrations of the Lenten season, with the threat of the spread of COVID-19 still with us, we need to consider and plan our liturgical celebrations in keeping with the recommendations of our health experts while providing our faithful with solemn and meaningful celebrations according to the requirements of the liturgical principles of the Church,” Palma said.
Any dried leaves
Aware that the dried palm fronds used during the celebration of Palm Sunday in 2020 are hard to come by, the Archdiocese has encouraged parishes to use dried branches or leaves of plants or trees to be burnt and used as ashes instead.
“Our celebration last year was in the absence of our people on account of the strict lockdown and only a few palm branches were blessed on the occasion,” explained Palma.
Cotton balls or sprinkles
The church decided to sustain its previous recommendations of sprinkling the ashes over the head, instead of wiping them, to avoid contact. Otherwise, ministers were advised to dab the forehead of a devotee with cotton balls.
Bring home ashes
The entire island of Cebu has been placed under the most lenient community quarantine – the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) – but in Cebu City, minors below 15 years old and seniors age 65 years old and above are still prohibited from going out.
This prompted church officials advising parishes to provide small plastic sachets containing blessed ashes to devotees visiting churches. In turn, they can put the ashes on the foreheads of their family members within the confines of their homes.
“We will continue to issue liturgical guidelines for our liturgical celebrations, and still continue to pray for the healing of many and for the end of the pandemic,” noted Palma.
In Roman Catholicism, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season in the liturgical calendar – which is a season of fasting and praying.
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