Ash Wednesday 2021: A Return to Ancient Tradition

Join us for Mass on Wednesday, February 17th


8:00 am - Mass (Ordinary Form - English) & Distribution of Ashes

3:00 pm - Distribution of Ashes

6:00 pm - Mass (Ordinary Form - English) & Distribution of Ashes

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Vatican has asked that ashes not be marked on the forehead directly with the priest’s hand, instead the recommendation is that the ashes be sprinkled on the forehead of penitents.


Not having the cross marked on our forehead may feel different and new for us, but it is actually an ancient practice that has existed within our church for centuries. The United States is one of the only places where the practice of marking the forehead with a cross has been done, in other places around the world, including in Rome, ashes are sprinkled on the head.

The liturgical use of ashes originated in the Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance.  In the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Esther 4:1).  Job repented in sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6). Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel wrote, “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).


This Ash Wednesday, as we experience the blessed ashes being sprinkled on our heads, we acknowledge that the ashes are an outward sign of our mortality and our total dependence on God. May this sacramental give us the grace of a true conversion of heart and lead us into a fruitful Lent.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church

2267 Main Street, Three Rivers, MA 01080

Parish Office: (413) 283-6030