Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ashes and the Station Churches of Rome

A couple of people expressed interest to me yesterday on Facebook about yesterday's post where I mentioned that ashes may be imposed by sprinkling or by smudging. Since most of us have only seen the "smudges", they weren't sure I was right about the sprinkling option. In the belief that if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth at least a million, here is the Holy Father receiving ashes (via sprinkling) during yesterday's Ash Wednesday Mass in Rome, celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Sabina.

A couple of quick liturgical notes about the video:

1) Notice the unaccompanied polyphany during the entrance procession at the start of the video. The musical custom for Lent is that instruments fall silent and all singing in the Mass is unaccompanied throughout the season. You can hear this as the schola at Santa Sabina sings the day's introit, in Latin, in the video above. Beautiful.

2) Santa Sabina is the "station church" for Ash Wednesday. One of Rome's ancient churches is designated the "station church" on each day throughout Lent, until the Octave of Easter. This was a custom started by Pope St. Gregory I (d. 604) which carries on today. Here is a great video about Rome's Station Churches: