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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
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Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
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interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 9, 2011.
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
A Musical Interlude: Nobody's Using It Now (Marion Harris)

Listen here.

Posted on 03/09/2011 3:29 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Is Omar Hammami Bama Boy and al Shabaab Commander Dead in Somalia?
 
 
Omar Hammami, 'Bama born Al Shabaab Commander
 
 
Omar Hammami, "Daphne, Alabama Born Jihad Militant May Be Dead in Somali Warfare', says this AP Report.  We had written about Hammami, product of a marriage between an American Baptist mother and a Syrian Muslim engineer father in our NER article, "Foot Soldiers of Islam".  He grew up in Daphne, an upper middle class community on Mobile Bay's Eastern Shore  After he had been taken by his Muslim father to visit relatives in Syria, he began the slow but inexorable conversion to jihadist Islam, evident in his final years in high school and his leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood Muslim Students Association in the University of South Alabama that he left in 2002. His fateful path after leaving towards Jihadism took him to Toronto, Canada and its Somali Muslim community and hence, after, fathering a child with a Somali emigre, to become a commander in Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Shabaab, adopting the nom de guerre of Abu Mansour al-Amriki, or "the American."
 
Based on alleged intelligence repports cited by the AP report, it is unclear, whether Hammami's remains have been discovered.  Note these excerpts:
 
Somalia's defense minister said Tuesday that intelligence reports indicate that an American from Alabama who joined a dangerous militant group may have been killed during an anti-insurgent offensive.
Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Mohamud Haji Fiqi told The Associated Press that Somali officials do not have a body and that the intelligence reports have not yet been confirmed.
"We have information saying that he died," Fiqi said. "I'm not 100 percent sure but this is the information that we get from different sources. We need to make sure."
Omar Hammami, who grew up in the middle-class town of Daphne, Alabama, joined the al-Qaida-linked Somali militants in 2007 while he was in his early 20s. . .
Hammami starred in jihadist videos that showed him rapping and running with gun-wielding fighters. He was indicted for his role in al-Shabab in August.
An e-mail seeking comment sent to Omar's father in Alabama was not immediately returned.
Officials with al-Shabab did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment.
Last August the U.S. announced that it had charged 14 people as participants in "a deadly pipeline" to Somalia that routed money and fighters from the United States to al-Shabab. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said then that Hammami "has assumed an operational role in that organization."
 
Hammami's  case, that of son in a mixed Christian Muslim marriage who became indoctrinated in Jihadist  doctrine leading to a brief career in anti-US terrorism both here and abroad is one more example of home grown terrorists. Rep. Pete King and his Homeland Security staff should add his case to their roster of testimony in the Hearings that begin tomorrw. It is a matter that we have suggested in our NER article about these Hearings.
  
Posted on 03/09/2011 4:25 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
O'Keefe's New Project: Muslim Brotherhood Meets NPR

Matthew Boyle writes in the Daily Caller where you can see the video (I recommend watching the video):

A man who appears to be a National Public Radio senior executive, Ron Schiller, has been captured on camera savaging conservatives and the Tea Party movement.

“The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian – I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move,” declared Schiller, the head of NPR’s nonprofit foundation, who last week announced his departure for the Aspen Institute.

In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give up to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”

On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said.

O’Keefe’s organization set up a fake website for MEAC to lend credibility to the fictitious group. On the site, MEAC states that its mission is combating “intolerance to spread acceptance of Sharia across the world.” At their lunch, the man posing as Kasaam told Schiller that MEAC contributes to a number of Muslim schools across the U.S. “Our organization was originally founded by a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood in America actually,” he says.

Schiller doesn’t blink. Instead, he assumes the role of fan. “I think what we all believe is if we don’t have Muslim voices in our schools, on the air,” Schiller says, “it’s the same thing we faced as a nation when we didn’t have female voices.”

When O’Keefe’s two associates pressed him into the topic, Schiller decried U.S. media coverage of Egypt’s uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak, especially talk of the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence on the protests and future of Egypt. Schiller said that is what he is “most disappointed by in this country, which is that the educated, so-called elite in this country is too small a percentage of the population, so that you have this very large un-educated part of the population that carries these ideas.”

When the man pretending to be Kasaam suggests to Schiller that “Jews do kind of control the media or, I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interests in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel,” Schiller does not rebut him or stop eating. He just nods his head slightly

The man posing as Kasaam then joked that his friends call NPR, “National Palestinian Radio,” because, according to him, NPR is the only media outlet that covers Palestinians’ perspective. Schiller laughed.

When the ersatz Islamists declare they’re “not too upset about maybe a little bit less Jew influence of money into NPR,” Schiller responds by saying he doesn’t find “Zionist or pro-Israel” ideas at NPR, “even among funders. I mean it’s there in those who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR.”

Liley chimes in at this point to add that, “even one of our biggest funders who you’ll hear on air, The American Jewish World Service, may not agree with us. I visited with them recently and they may not agree with what we put on the air but they find us important to them and, sometimes it’s not that easy to hear what we say and what our reporters say, but they still think NPR is important to support.”

Schiller added that “they [the American Jewish World Service] are really looking for a fair point of view and many Jewish organizations are not.”

Later in the lunch, Schiller explains that NPR would be better positioned free of federal funding. “Well frankly, it is clear that we would be better off in the long-run without federal funding,” he says. “The challenge right now is that if we lost it all together we would have a lot of stations go dark.”

When one of O’Keefe’s associates asked, “How confident are you, with all the donors that are available, if they should pull the funding right now that you would survive?,” Schiller answered this way: “Yes, NPR would definitely survive and most of the stations would survive.”

That is precisely the opposite answer Schiller’s boss, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation), gave at a press conference Monday in Washington. “We take [federal defunding] very, very seriously,” she said. “It would have a profound impact we believe on our ability – of public broadcasting’s ability – to deliver news and information.”

At the Café Milano lunch, Schiller said he’s “very proud of” how NPR fired Juan Williams. “What NPR stood for is non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news and our feeling is that if a person expresses his or her opinion, which anyone is entitled to do in a free society, they are compromised as a journalist,” he said. “They can no longer fairly report.”

With that, Schiller once again directly contradicted NPR’s public statements. At her Monday press conference, Vivian Schiller apologized for the way it handled the Williams matter. “We handled the situation badly,” she said. “We acted too hastily and we made some mistakes. I made some mistakes.”

Juan Williams responds.

UPDATE: NPR chief executive officer, Vivian Schiller, resigns.

Posted on 03/09/2011 6:31 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Christians and Muslims clash in Cairo, 1 dead

And the 1 dead person is, can you believe it, a Christian.  Christians and Muslims keep having these clashes in Egypt, and by golly, all of the burned houses of worship are Christian churches, all of the dead are Christians.  More statistical freakishness.  You'd think those Coptic Christians would catch on and stop clashing with those Muslims.  By Hadeel Al-Shalchi for AP:

CAIRO – Thousands of Christians and Muslims clashed Tuesday, with one Christian man killed and scores wounded as anger rose over the burning of a church in a Cairo suburb.

It was the second burst of sectarian fighting in as many days and the latest in a string of violent protests over a variety of topics as simmering unrest continues nearly a month after mass protests led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The violence erupted after Coptic Christians held protests in several locations in Cairo against perceived persecution by the country's Muslim majority.

Hadeel Al-Shalchi of the AP, there have been few instances of systematic persecution more thoroughly documented than that of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.  If you cannot grant that their persecution is real, and not a figment of their imagination with that snide aside, that says quite a bit about AP's coverage of the Middle East.

[...]

The group which included a group of garbage collectors, who are predominantly Christian, demanded equal rights and better quality of life. The clashes broke out when they were confronted by Muslims, witnesses said.

Clashes don't just spontaneously materialize out of the ether.  Replace the passive voice with the active voice:  "Muslims gathered into a mob and violently attacked the Christians, witnesses said."  There, that's better.

At least one Christian man was killed and about 100 others [Christians] wounded in the fighting, according to an Egyptian hospital official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Elsewhere in Cairo, a protest by hundreds of Egyptian women demanding equal rights and an end to sexual harassment turned violent Tuesday when crowds of men heckled and shoved the demonstrators, telling them to go home where they belong.

The story we were told about the Christians and the Muslims of Egypt working together in harmony to rid themselves of their common enemy, Mubarek, is ringing a little hollow.  As is the claim that the protesters are pro-democracy freedom-fighters who are just like us, who want the same things we do.

This was just another in a long line of Muslim coups.  There is nothing noble about what happened in Egypt.

Posted on 03/09/2011 2:11 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
The Shia Challenge To Sunnis In Bahrain More Important Than What's Going On In Libya

From Reuters:

Bahraini Shi'ites protest against settling Sunnis

 

MANAMA (Reuters) - Thousands of mostly Shi'ite Muslim Bahrainis protested on Wednesday against giving citizenship to Sunni foreigners serving in the military, whose troops have killed seven in the worst unrest since the 1990s.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has seen weeks of protests by its disgruntled Shi'ite majority, which says it is discriminated against by the Sunni al-Khalifa ruling family.

No stranger to sporadic protests and rioting, Bahrain has been gripped by the worst unrest since the 1990s after a youth movement took to the streets last month, emboldened by revolutions that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt.

Protests have been peaceful after initial clashes but many of the protesters still occupying Manama's Pearl Square are demanding the al-Khalifa family be ousted.

The bigger and more moderate Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq only demands a new government and a new constitution under which the government would be elected.

A thorny issue for all opposition groups has been Bahrain's practice of giving citizenship to Sunni foreigners serving in the kingdom's armed forces, which they see as an attempt to alter the country's sectarian balance.

The protesters marched by the immigration authority in Manama, chanting anti-government slogans and holding up signs that read "Stop naturalization!"

"All those that are naturalized will be pro-government, and those in the police and army will follow their orders even if they are against the Bahraini people," said protester Khaled Ali.

Only half of Bahrain's population of about 1.2 million are native Bahrainis. Protesters said they only oppose settling those foreigners who are recruited to serve in the armed forces.

The opposition also complains that families of naturalized Sunnis have better access to government services such as housing, education and health.

"We want them out because they're sharing the services with original Bahrainis. We have to wait 15 years for (government) housing, and they get it immediately after arriving," said Ali.

Opposition activists estimate that up to half of Bahrain's approximately 20,000-strong national security apparatus could be made up of Sunnis from Pakistan, Jordan and Yemen.

The interior ministry said this week it plans to create 20,000 jobs and said they would be open to Shi'ites.

The government says there is no plan to change the country's sectarian balance and that all naturalization is done with full transparency and in accordance with Bahrain's immigration policies.

Bahrain's king said in December the government would start limiting the practice, in what observers said was a gesture to the opposition over a contentious issue.

"He said that, but what's going on under the table is different," said protester Taha Alderazi.

Bahrain saw the first clashes between Sunni and Shi'ite residents last week when at least a hundred residents attacked each other with metal sticks and batons in Hamad Town, an area where both sects live, including settled Sunnis.

It was not clear what prompted the clashes that lasted about two hours before police and politicians calmed the situation, but residents said that Syrians settled in Bahrain had been involved.

Posted on 03/09/2011 12:28 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
SAS seize Iranian rockets destined for Taliban fighters

From The Telegraph

British Special Forces in Afghanistan have seized a convoy of powerful Iranian rockets destined for Taliban fighters. The haul is the strongest evidence yet of a significant escalation in Tehran's support for the Taliban, military officials said.

The consignment of 48 rockets hidden in three trucks was intercepted last month after a fierce fire fight which left several insurgents dead in the remote southern province of Nimroz, bordering Iran.  The 48 weapons had been deliberately disguised to appear manufactured elsewhere, but tests by weapons experts had determined they were from an Iranian factory.

Lt Col John Dorrian, a spokesman for Nato forces in Afghanistan, said the rockets had been found on Feb 5 and had been undergoing tests since then. He said: "This is the first time that Iranian manufacture 122mm rockets have been discovered in this country. They had been deliberately sanitised to hide their origin. It is indeed an escalation, while increasing the dangers to Afghan and Nato forces, as well as civilians."

"This is a really significant indication of Iranian support for the insurgency," said one British military source. "I'm not aware that we have had so strong evidence as this in the past."

Posted on 03/09/2011 12:49 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Muslim women 'should not travel more than 48 miles from home without male chaperone'

From The Telegraph

Muslim women have been banned from traveling more than 48 miles from their homes without being chaperoned by a male relative, according to a fatwa issued by one of Islam's leading universities.

The ruling was made by the Darul Uloom Deoband, the leading Islamic university founded in northern India in 1866.

Its fatwa was issued after a female follower had asked: "Is a married woman permitted to travel to another country with her female sibling?"

In a reply on the Deoband website, she was told:"She cannot travel without a 'mehram' [male relative]. It's mentioned in the Hadees that a woman should not travel for more than 48 miles except in the company of a 'mehram' relative."

The decision was defended by a Deobandi spokesman who said the increase in violent crime against women in India showed it remained relevant. "No Muslim family should have any objections," he said. Its ruling was based on the Hadiths – the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad during his lifetime. The 48 mile limit is believed to reflect the maximum distance one could then travel by camel or horse in one day through dangerous desert.

Posted on 03/09/2011 1:51 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Wife of German terror cell leader gets prison term

From Deutsche Welle

A Berlin court on Wednesday sentenced the wife of the leader of a German terrorist cell to two and a half years in prison for supporting terrorist organizations.

The German-Turkish woman was found guilty of collecting up to 2,900 euros ($4,000) for terrorist groups such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the German Taliban Mujahedeen and al Qaeda between November 2009 and February 2010.

She was also convicted of publishing propaganda texts on the Internet that solicited members for terrorist groups, charges which she admitted to but distanced herself from in the trial. "It seems to me that it was a different person who wrote the texts," she said. Federal prosecutors (called)  the woman a "fanatical militant" who labeled "infidels" as enemies of Islam and called for their "annihilation."

The defendant's husband, 29-year-old Fritz Gelowicz, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last March by a court in Dusseldorf for planning terrorist attacks against US targets in Germany.

The Canadian Press name the woman as  Filiz Gelowicz aged 29.

Posted on 03/09/2011 2:00 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
A Preamble And Ash Wednesday
Most of you observant readers may have noticed that for some time now I have posted intermittently about the Christian Festivals which occur throughout the year – specifically using the western kalendar, but in my doing so I intend no offence to Orthodoxy; it is simply that I am much more familiar with western Christian traditions and mores than with eastern ones, having been brought up in the western tradition. I also mean no offence to Judaism, the elder faith, and I endeavour with both of these traditions of Faith to point out their different practices and beliefs when such are known to me.
 
My purpose in posting about our feasts, festivals, Saints’ days and other observances and celebrations is twofold. First I want to counter the general ignorance about our rich western heritage. The Church’s Kalendar still influences, albeit invisibly except for the two major Feasts of Easter and Christmas, the way we structure and think of our year. However, most people – but probably not the majority of readers at this site – are relatively ignorant about many aspects of our cultural heritage and, most notably, ignorant about our Judeo-Christian heritage. If I had a penny for every time that I’ve been in company discussing the world and its affairs and somebody has eventually said that we don’t have anything like the festivals found in Islam, or sometimes some other non-western religion or belief system, then I would be a wealthier man by far. Recently I was in such a company when one of the people present actually said, totally seriously, that we should abolish Easter as it’s meaningless, and then went on to say that it wasn’t as if it had any religious meaning for anyone unlike Christmas. You may be assured that I, and one or two others, rapidly disabused him of his strange notions, but yet I remain saddened by the look of utter surprise and incredulity on his face as the significance of Easter to Christians was explained to him. He had genuinely no idea at all.
 
My second reason for posting about our feasts and other such things is to provide for all who read here a counterweight to the unceasing publicity that the mainstream media give to all the affairs and celebrations of the often idiotic practices of Islam. This is done to the exclusion of all things pertaining to our Judeo-Christian heritage and, of course, it’s done entirely deliberately and with malice aforethought. It is fashionable and accepted in the mainstream media that only an anti-Christian and an anti-Jewish position will allow one to pursue a successful career, but that one has to carefully phrase and nuance that position and contain it within a smokescreen of seeming reasonableness is the subtext. The unhealthy and extremely silly practice of the compulsory Ramadan daylight fast by Muslims is a case in point: it, and its accompanying shenanigans, and its concentration on the fasting itself as some sort of end, are always all over the western press and yet our sensible Christian ritual Fast of Lent with its accent on personal responsibility and careful choice of abstinence, barely, if ever, gets a look in. Of course, to be fair to the sensation driven mainstream media, that could be because Christians do not routinely rampage through the streets in violent mobs during Lent, unlike Muslims in Ramadan!
 
In these posts I have taken care to couple my observations about Christian religious practices with as much information as I can gather on the secular customs, practices and traditions which have grown up around the sacred events. Naturally, such traditions as I mention are mainly culled from England because I am English and I grew up with those traditions, but, again, no denigration of the traditions of others is meant or implied by that. In my opinion the retention of our secular ways is almost as important as the preservation of our Faith and its meaning for each and every day of the year. It is in the little and, in themselves, seemingly unimportant, customs and rituals that a significant part of our culture and ways of looking at the world lies. I am always grateful to readers when they send me information about the traditions which have grown up around the sacred in their area or country.
 
I hope, also, that these posts of mine may be of some use to those of you who are not Christian. I hope that they may help to explain something about the Christian worldview and that they help you to get a handle on some of the west’s cultural idioms and mores. I hope also that for those of you brought up in a more evangelical and protestant version of the Christian faith that these posts help to explain the more mainstream Catholic, Orthodox and ancient beliefs of our Faith and how those beliefs have coloured the societies we all live in today.
 
***
 
Today is Ash Wednesday – the first day of the ritual Christian Fast of Lent – and it gets its name from the Sacramental1 practice of marking an ash cross on the forehead of each believer. The ash is obtained by burning the previous year’s palm crosses from the Palm Sunday celebrations; the ash is mixed with Holy Water and, in some denominations, with a little Chrism2, then blessed and censed. The officiating Priest will say one of the following when applying the ashes: ‘Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19) or ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15) or ‘Repent, and hear the good news’ (Mark 1:15).
 
Ash Wednesday is called also caput jejuenii (start of the Fast days) and sometimes, in Latin, simply dies cinerum (day of ashes) which is the name found in the earliest copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. After the time of Pope Gregory the Great (reigned AD590-604), Ash Wednesday became the first of four supplementary Fast days as I explained here in my Shrovetide post.
 
( Interestingly the Latin capitulum clearly states that confession must be made in the week before the initium Quadragesimae (the first Sunday in Lent) and when Lent started on the Monday after Quadragesima Sunday – as it still does in the Orthodox Churches – Ash Wednesday had no particular relationship to Lent other than its obvious one of confession and penitence. The first Saturday in Lent – Feria vii in Quinquagesima – has the prayer ‘Observationis huius annua celebritate laetantes, quaesumus, Domine, ut, paschalibus sacramentis inhaerentes plenis eorum effectibus gaudeamus’ and that just illustrates the difficulty of throwing the Fast back to Ash Wednesday and breaking up the week of Quinquagesima. The Shrovetide customs are the witnesses to the earlier use and the ‘gaudeamus’ of the Saturday prayer preserves a certain note of joy that one would not expect to find in the sombre shadow of Lent.)
 
The Ashes symbolise penance and contrition and they are also a reminder for Christians that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
 
Following the example of the Ninevites3, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told ‘Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return’, or one of the other verses, by the priest.
 
Ashes are a symbol of penance made Sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
 
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony from Christianity’s earliest times. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, a Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms4, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins – just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and Sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession but that is seldom done these days5.
 
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Christian ritual Fast of Lent and one should abstain from meat and one should not consume more food than one full meal and two small meals which must not add up together to a full meal (if you are between the ages of 18 and 59 and your health enables you to do so). Many of us will fast on bread and water for this day and for all or some of the other days in Lent but that is not required of us and in practice could be injurious to one’s health and should not be undertaken lightly or on a whim. As if abstinence isn’t enough this day used to be a tithing day as well. However, it more important for a Christian to use this season to confess, repent and atone than to fast in some strict manner. The relinquishing of some luxuries or habit-forming things is usually undertaken by Christians during Lent as an outward sign and reminder to themselves of the season and what they should be doing spiritually.
 
Ashes were used in ancient times, according to the Bible, to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent's way of expressing sorrow and apology for sins and faults. An ancient example of expressing one's penitence is found in Job 42:3-6 and the prophet Jeremiah, for example, calls for repentance this way: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26).The prophet Daniel pleaded for God this way: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Other examples are found in several other books of the Bible including, Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:21, and Luke 10:13, and Hebrews 9:13. Ezekiel 9 also speaks of a linen-clad messenger marking the forehead of the city inhabitants that have sorrow over the sins of the people. All those without the mark are destroyed. The practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is also found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; and  Job 2:8.
 
Ash Wednesday also marks the start of a forty day period which is an allusion to the separation of Jesus in the desert to fast and pray. During this time he was tempted by the Devil, Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13. While not specifically instituted in the Bible text, the 40-day period of repentance is also analogous to the forty days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the golden calf, and also to the forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert before being admitted to the Holy Land.  I’m informed that Jews today follow a 40-day period of repenting during the High Holy Days from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur.
 
There is surprisingly little in the way of secular customs and traditions associated with this day. As I explained here in my Shrovetide post, this day in some parts of England is called Fruttace Wednesday (Fritter Wednesday) because fritters are commonly eaten on this day. It was common to burn only the wood of Ash trees on this Wednesday and some children would carry Ash staves to smack other children with if they were not similarly armed. I am informed that in some parts of England boys would carry an Ash twig in one of their socks and those who didn’t would get their feet stamped on. Apart from those four items I know of nothing more in the way of custom that was, or is, traditional in England on this day. If any of our readers know of anything else I’d be grateful to hear of it.
 
 
Footnotes:
1) Sacramentals are material objects, things or actions (sacramentalia), set apart or blessed, to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments, and so to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin, according to the Council of Trent (Session XXII, 15). Thus the Ashes on Ash Wednesday or Holy Water or a Crucifix are all Sacramentals. The church recognises two differences between the Sacraments and the Sacramentals. The first is that the Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ; most, but not all, of the Sacramentals were instituted by the Church. The second is that the Sacraments give grace of themselves and are always fruitful when the faithful place no spiritual obstacles in the way, whereas the Sacramentals just incline faithful people to pious dispositions by means of which they may obtain grace. It is not the Sacramental itself that gives grace, but the devotion, the love of God, or the sorrow for sin that it inspires, and the prayers of the Church also, that render Sacramentals efficacious.
 
2) Chrism – sanctum chrisma – is simply oil consecrated and used in the administration of certain Sacraments. Most commonly Chrism is used in Confirmation which is sometimes referred to as Chrismation. Being anointed with Chrism is an outward sign of the seal of the covenants of Baptism and God’s promises to all Christian who are so anointed. It’s also a sign of a Christian, for Christos means ‘anointed’, and is a physical sign of having the gift of the Holy Ghost.
 
3) Nineveh’s repentance and salvation from evil is noted in the Gospel of Matthew at 12:41 and in the Gospel of Luke at11:32.
 
4) The Seven Penitential Psalms are:
  • Psalm 6 – Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me, neque in ira tua corripias me... (O Lord, do not reprove me in Thy wrath, nor in Thy anger chastise me...)
  • Psalm 31 – Beati, quorum remissae sunt iniquitates, et quorum tecta sunt peccata...(Blessed is he whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered...)
  • Psalm 37 – Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me, neque in ira tua corripias me... (O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy furore; nor chastise me in Thy wrath...)
  • Psalm 50 – Miserére mei, Deus, secúndum magnam misericórdiam tuam... (Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy...)
  • Psalm 101 – Domine, exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat... (Hear, O Lord, my prayer: and let my cry come to Thee...)
  • Psalm 129 – De profúndis clamávi ad te, Dómine: Dómine, exáudi vocem meam... (Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord: Lord hear my voice...)
  • Psalm 142 – Domine, Exaudi orationem mean, auribus percipe obsecrationem meam in veritate tua; exaudi me in tua iustitia... (Hear, O Lord, my prayer, give ear to my supplication in Thy truth: hear me in Thy justice...)
 
5) This devotional usage, the use of a Sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the ‘cor contritum quasi cinis’ of the Dies Irae)a, may be of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as a general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum in AD1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Aelfric (see also Aelfric) assumes that it applies to all classes of men not just clerics. "We read,” he says, “in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast”. (Aelfric, Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, I, pp.260-266). It is possible that the notion of penance which was suggested by the rite of Ash Wednesday was originally reinforced by the figurative exclusion from the sacred mysteries symbolised by the hanging of the Lenten veil before the sanctuary.
 
a) – The seventeenth verse of the thirteenth century Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) by Thomas of Celano:
 
Oro supplex et acclinis,                  Low I kneel with Heart's submission
Cor contritum quasi cinis:              see, like ashes, my contrition;
Gere curam mei finis.                     help me in my last condition.
 
The English translation is the wonderfully poetic one from 1849 by William Josiah Irons rather than a strictly accurate one.
 
Posted on 03/09/2011 2:13 PM by John M. Joyce

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