The Cathedral of St. John the Divine hosts outdoor imposition of ashes

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Ulysses Salamanca receives ashes on March 2.
Photo by Dean Moses

New Yorkers lined up on a Harlem street Wednesday to receive their ashes and observe a faith many say has helped them through hard times.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine offered two options for parishioners to observe the religious holy day, they could attend an indoor worship service or an outdoor imposition of ashes.

At 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., the Cathedral imposed ashes in front of its historic steps, a tradition that continued on March 2.

Ash Wednesday is a Christian observance that occurs on the first day of Lent (a time for parishioners to give up something to symbolize Jesus Christ’s fasting for 40 days).  The ashes used during this religious ceremony are burnt palms from the previous Palm Sunday and are meant to signify public penance.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine hosted an outdoor imposition of ashes. Photo by Dean Moses

Ulysses Salamanca is visiting from Chicago and chose to receive his ashes at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine since his daughter is attending the nearby Columbia University. For him, his faith helps him bear all the tragedy in the world, including the crisis in Ukraine.

“We went from dealing with a global pandemic to now war between Russia and Ukraine and I think we’re all affected. I think that the world is really showing how connected we are. We’re seeing the global shows of support for Ukraine and the fact that we believe that this isn’t the right time for war. And that at the end of the day, I don’t think we can ever go back in history and say, the world is a better place after war,” Salamanca said. “I come here, it’s a place of God and to come in here I feel a sense of peace.”

Ash Wednesday symbolizes public penance. Photo by Dean Moses

Although Salamanca found the house of worship to be a beautiful and spiritual place, Michelle Chang came since she says the Cathedral is so welcoming.

“It’s welcoming to everybody whether you’re religious or not. And it’s just really for me, as a serious Christian, it really represents the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to everybody. They also do a lot of great exhibits,” Chang told amNewYork Metro.

Michelle Chang proudly showcased her ashes. Photo by Dean Moses

Like Salamanca, Chang says she would be lost without her faith and uses it as a crutch to help her through hard times.

“Without my faith I would be hopeless, but because of my faith I am hopeful,” Chang said.

A line of parishioners await the imposition of ashes. Photo by Dean Moses
Ash Wednesday is a holy day of observance. Photo by Dean Moses