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St Ambrose had to be “corrected” by Pope Urban VIII. The ‘Iste confessor’ was greatly altered and the hymn for the Dedication of a Church—which no one ought to have touched—was in fact completely recast in a new meter. Singular demand, made by the taste of that particular epoch!
— Re: The hymn revisions of Pope Urban VIII (d. 1644)

Reflection on the Blessing of the Ashes
published 4 March 2014 by Guest Author

0319_JXXIII_blue HERE IS A VERY inspiring chant, used in the blessing of ashes which says: Let us amend for the better in those things in which we have sinned through ignorance: lest suddenly overtaken by the day of death we seek time for repentance, and are not able to find it.

Several ideas are presented. The first is that we should try to improve and do better. A bit of reflection will help us to see what needs improvement. I suspect that all of us could spend more time in prayer. Especially if we are older and retired, we have so much more time. Do we just want to waste it on watching television? And this can apply also to young people. I like to define or call prayer as time we are willing to spend with God. When we love someone, we want to spend time with them. If we really love God, then we will want to spend time with Him. And when it comes to what we should do for lent, you will almost always first hear, ‘prayer and fasting.’ Do something very definite this lent to increase and improve your prayer, the time you are willing to spend with God. At the moment of your death you will be glad that you did.

I find the words ‘sinned through ignorance’ very consoling. I’m not saying this to excuse myself or anyone, but I do believe that many of the sins we commit, and many of the good things we failed to do are done more out of ignorance than out of malice. Yes, it is so much easier to spend fifteen minutes watching TV than to say the Rosary, but think of the difference that the pay-off is going to have. And then that urge to spread that latest piece of gossip! But is it worth spending time in purgatory for?

The last part of this chant gets a bit more dramatic when it says: 'we may seek a time for repentance, and are not able to find it’. Yes, it may be too late. We do know that we should be prepared at all times. Everyone should live each lent, each day, as if it may be their last. If we have real and genuine love of God, the end of life should not be a frightening thought. St. John the Apostle says that love casts out all fear. If we improve our love of God by spending more time with Him in prayer, then we will probably have less reason to fear Him. We will look forward to meeting Him face to face. Make this the best lent of your life!

We hope you enjoyed this reflection by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.