Would you like a “spirit of compunction” on Ash Wednesday?

22 Feb

In the new translation of the “Prayer over the People” at the end of the Ash Wednesday Mass, the priest asks God to pour out a “spirit of compunction” on the people. With a speed that made the ashes on my forehead fly in the wind, I ran to dictionaries after Mass to see what I was asking God to do to them, wondering whether or not I wanted that done unto me.

Prayer over the People

For the dismissal, the Priest stands facing the people and, extending his hands over them, says this prayer:

Pour out a spirit of compunction, O God, on those who bow before your majesty, and by your mercy may they merit the rewards you promise to those who do penance. Through Christ our Lord.

8 Responses to “Would you like a “spirit of compunction” on Ash Wednesday?”

  1. Gail Finke February 22, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    We are dainty little fairies
    every singing, ever dancing.
    We indulge in our vagaries
    in a fashion most entrancing.
    If you ask the special function
    Of our never-ceasing motion,
    We reply, without COMPUNCTION,
    That we haven’t any notion!

    — Iolanthe

    That is the first thing that came to mind. So it is better to be with compunction than without it, I guess. At least when there is something to have compunction about!

  2. JoAnne Lacey hopevoices February 22, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you for the “spirit of compunction” the definition and especially the blessing!

    After Mass I went through the bank drive thru….the teller gave me a strange look, I wasn’t sure what that was about….until I got home and looked in the mirror.

    It is good to wear our ashes and lift our thoughts and the thoughts of those we randomly pass along the way to God!

  3. Peter Winkler February 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Merriam-Webster (the dictionary I use in my career as an editor) defines compunction as “1: a : anxiety arising from awareness of guilt b : distress of mind over an anticipated action or result 2: a twinge of misgiving : scruple .” Is that really what the church wishes for us this Lent? It seems so cringing and measly. Why not ask God to pour out a love or grace upon us?

    • Peter Winkler February 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Oops! I meant to say a spirit of love or grace ….

      • Father Rob Waller February 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

        “Oops! I meant to say …. ”

        Could that be an example of compunction?

        When I opened up M-W.com after Mass, I cringed at “scruple,” too. (As a youngster I had too many of those, of the kind and number that did not come from God.) But there is something I like about a “twinge of misgiving.”

        I don’t think that I’d like to live life “without compunction,” or that people around me would be helped or safe if I had no compunction. But it is an odd word, isn’t it?

        Your thoughful reply has continued me on in my enjoyement of Lent. I am grateful.

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