From a priest comes a good #ashtag question…
A couple priests have asked me today, and I have no good answer – when a priest is offering Mass on Ash Wednesday without another priest present, or a deacon, does he impose ashes upon himself? Have a layperson impose them?
Last year, my first Ash Wednesday as a priest, I had Mass alone. Feeling a bit foolish about it, but wanting the sign of penitence myself, I imposed ashes on my own head. This year, I’m filling in for the parish priest and, at the early Mass, I had a layman, who was serving at the altar, impose ashes on me. [Ahhh… the Novus Ordo!]
Fr. ___, likely getting his info from his uncle, said that the priest should impose ashes on himself, and used the analogy of the priest blessing himself with Holy Water at the Asperges. Another priest of solid repute said that no, one should not impose a sign of penance on oneself, and since the ashes are already blessed by the priest, having another person impose them was not any sort of diminution of the sacerdotal status. Another priest says the he, for many years now, simply forgoes having ashes himself.
I have to imagine this was a very common situation back in the day. Do the older rubrics say anything about this situation? What are your thoughts?
First, I, for one, will never allow a layperson to put ashes on any part of me… unless we are hunkered down in a hide and I need smudges under my eyes while keeping our advancing hunters fixed in my rose-color gunsight.
Back in 1931, during the happy pontificate of Pius XI of venerable memory, the Sacred Congregation for Rites said that, if the priest is alone (i.e., if no other priest is present), he stands facing the altar and puts ashes on himself, saying nothing.
The rest is silence.