...but - for the first time for me - in the Ordinariate form. The church was, as with all churches on Ash Wednesday, very full (and apparently had been packed for the lunchtime Mass too). Being a central London church, right by London Bridge, its Ash Wednesday congregations include large numbers of people who work nearby, ie not necessarily people with any particular knowledge of the Ordinariate. So when this evening's Mass began and FrC. announced that it was in the Ordinariate Form, one sensed a ripple of interest. But as the Mass began it just felt normal and there is something so...oh, I am not expressing this very well, but...reassuring about this annual start of Lent, and the pastor marking himself and all the flock, one by one, with ashes. It's somehow real and grounding, in this often narcissic modern Britain.
In my childhood, the Lenten ashes were just a dab of dry dust, imparted with a quick movement, somehow not very memorable. Today priests seem to be much more active with the holy water when blessing the ashes, to make a thick paste which thus marks a clear and very definite cross on each forehead. There also seems to be more emphasis on having people bring their previous year's palms to be burned to make the ashes...it all makes the thing fit together and there is a sense of being part of the whole Church and Lent being very important.