Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, a time of penance leading up to Easter.
Catholics go to Mass, then have ashes placed on their foreheads. The Priest applying the ashes says, “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.” This tends to diminish pride and increase humility, which is appropriate at the start of Lent.
However, some churches are innovating with their ashes this year. Some are adding glitter to their ashes as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
No, I’m not kidding. And my first reaction was total disgust. But then my inner entrepreneurial spirit wafted up from somewhere and I realized there might be opportunity in ashes.
All these years as a Catholic convert I was thinking ashes were a sign of penance, a serious sacramental to remind me of how little I truly am. But now I realize that ashes are an opportunity for self-expression and political action.
Let’s not limit this to glitter ashes to offer a nod to the LGBTQ folks. Ashes could come in many varieties:
- Red for Republicans
- Blue for Democrats
- Pink for breast-cancer survivors
- Tiger stripped for car lovers
- Dalmatian spotted for dog lovers
- Green for tree huggers
School could raise money by selling ashes with their school colors. Companies might work deals to have their logos centered in ashes worn by their employees. The possibilities are nearly endless. And the more ornate the ashes, the more you could charge for their application.
This could be the next big thing, right up there with the pet rock and chia Obama. And the design theme could carry on throughout Lent and into Easter.
Maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded all these years, thinking the ashes had religious significance. And I’m likely even more narrow-minded about the crucifix.
A crucifix always has Jesus on it. But if we are flexible about ashes, why not loosen up a bit with the crucifix. I’m thinking the same folks who would like, say, green ashes for the environment, would like a green Jesus on a green cross. And the folks who like glitter ashes might want a figure on the cross who is, well, androgynous.
As with ashes, the marketing possibilities for crucifixes with various combinations of colors and figures is virtually endless. Why not a “plant” crucifix to show solidarity with nature? Why not a whale crucifix to show solidarity with the beasts of the sea?
I know. I know. This is ridiculous. But I believe if we become sacrilegious in little things, we’ll soon be sacrilegious in bigger things. If we forget the meaning of ashes on the forehead, what guarantees we’ll remember the meaning of a corpus on a cross?
This year and every year until I return to ashes, I’ll be opting for the standard black ashes on my forehead, the product of burned palms from Palm Sunday a year ago.
Glitter doesn’t go with penance. Penance is no time for politics.