The "Roman" custom of receiving ashes
Ash Wednesday sees the imposition of ashes. In the United States ashes are smudged on the forehead of penitents. And the smudge is worn the whole day long unless of course you could to a late evening Mass.
In Europe, especially Rome, the ashes are more like granules and are sprinkled upon the crown of the head. There is no visible sign of the smudge. It is like "putting on sackcloth and ashes" quite literally.
Now, let's talk liturgy. As you know my clairvoyance as enabled me to see future liturgical reforms as many believe this will occur and that our Liturgy today will be "enriched" by the Liturgy prior to the Council but with Vatican II's sober, nuanced "vision" of what the reform of the liturgical rites would look like.
One enrichment from the pre-Vatican II Liturgy but with Vatican II sensibilities will be the placement of sacramentals and other sacraments within the Mass itself.
For example in the 1962 missal, the Rite of Marriage or the Nuptials took place as a prelude to the Mass similar to the Rite of Sprinkling or Asperges. The same was true of the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday. These were clearly separate preludes to the actual Mass. The 1965 missal reformed this and allowed these "rites" to replace the Prayers at the Foot of the altar, but to be clearly a part of the Mass not just a prelude. The 1969 missal placed these after the homily, except for the rite of sprinkling which remained as a replacement for the penitential act.
The revised 2012 English Roman Missal has a peculiar thing in it concerning the Nuptial Mass. There is the greeting of the Mass, but the rubrics clearly state that the Penitential Act is omitted but the Gloria is sung/said. There is no formula given to introduce the Nuptial Mass or easily go forward from the greeting to the Gloria.
This tells me, the clairvoyant that I am, that a future revised "Marriage Rite" (there is a separate book for this distinct from the Roman Missal)will have the actual rite of marriage with vows and blessing and exchange of rings in the place of the Penitential Act preceding the Gloria. The Nuptial Blessing will still be after the Lord's Prayer.
I'm disappointed though that the 2012 missal still indicates that the blessing and imposition of the ashes takes place after the homily and is the penitential act, thus the normal penitential act in its normal place is omitted. The missal though states that the penitential act is omitted and the priest simply greets the people after the Sign of the Cross and then prays the Collect.
The 1965 missal has a fuller explanation of what should take place and that the imposition of ashes is the "penitential act" which replaces the prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The Ashes are blessed and imposed prior to the Collect and Liturgy of the Word. There is also a specific rubric about how the priest-celebrant is to receive his ashes. If another priest is present, that priest imposes ashes on the celebrant. If there is not another priest, the celebrant imposes ashes on himself. This rubric is totally lacking in the new Roman Missal and since 1973.
So, what do you think about the placement during Mass of ashes and the rite of marriage? And if I'm not mistaken, I believe that the rite of ordination of priests and deacons took place prior to the Liturgy of the Word,(actually after the tract but before the Gospel) similar to how the Nuptials took place as a prelude to the Mass--anyone know for sure?
Finally, having been trained in the modern way of celebrating the Mass, we were taught that these other rites (except for the Asperges) were to take place after the Liturgy of the Word as a response to it. I'm beginning to question that "theology" as symbolically it would be better for a bride and groom to be married and for the very first time as husband and wife, they would hear the Liturgy of the Word together, participate in the One Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion, as husband and wife.
The same for deacons, priests and bishops, you should be ordained and then listen to the Word of God.
Just my two cents worth. But for the imposition of ashes, it should be the penitential act and in the normal place.