Now far be it from me to be a liturgical innovator, but yesterday I celebrated the Mass of a liturgical day previously unknown in the tradition of the Roman Rite, the Mass of Ash Sunday.
Here's how it happened.
It was my turn to go and celebrate at the chapel of a certain group of sisters. I am very grateful for my turns when they come around. The folks who come to the Mass there are of a certain age, and it reminds me a little bit of when I used to go for Mass at Monastery Manor and Finian Sullivan Tower back in Yonkers.
While I was setting up for Mass, Sr. Sacristan asked me if I would be willing to impose ashes for anyone who had missed out on Ash Wednesday. Sister had saved a little bowl of ashes just for this possibility. Now back in the parish I would probably have said no to such irregularity, but at this place I'm a guest, I can see that some of the people (being of a certain age, as I said) have mobility issues, and I know how big a deal it can be for people to 'get their ashes.'
So I imagined that at the end of the Mass I would make an announcement, inviting anyone who had not received their ashes on Ash Wednesday to stick around a moment, whereupon I would go to the sacristy and put aside the chasuble so as to mark this extraordinary ash imposition as something apart from the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent.
It didn't happen that way.
As soon as the Liturgy of the Word was completed with the presidential prayer at the end of the Universal Prayer, Sr. Sacristan came up the aisle with the ashes in order to remind me of what I had agreed to do. So there it was. I turned to the assembly and said that if there was anyone who had not received ashes on Ash Wednesday, I could impose them now. One person got up, then a few more, and after another moment the whole assembly was in line for ashes (except for the two or three sisters.)
When I concluded the imposition of Ashes for Ash Sunday, I went to the sacristy and washed my hands (which is much easier with the dry ashes they use in Italy, as opposed to the ash and water paste commonly used in the States) and then went to the altar to continue with the offertory of what had been the First Sunday of Lent.