In the Ambrosian Rite, Lent does not begin on Ash Wednesday, as in the Roman Rite, but with the first vespers of the first Sunday in Lent (“in capite quadragesimae”), which this year will fall on 14th February. In the older Milanese tradition, this Sunday was not considered part of Lent, which started on the Monday after, and this may explain why the Rite of the Imposition of the Ashes is celebrated on this day.
The imposition of the ashes is an ancient rite which symbolically indicates penitence, recalling the transience of earthly life: «Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return».
According to the current Ambrosian missal, the imposition of the ashes is celebrated on the Monday after the first Sunday in Lent, but for pastoral reasons, it can be brought forward to the Sunday. In the Cathedral, both practices coexist. The evening mass on the first Sunday in Lent is officiated by the Archbishop. From his throne, the Archbishop blesses the ashes, receiving them from the hands of the Grand Penitentiary, and then in turn lays them on the priests present, who then lay them on the worshippers.
The Metropolitan Chapter celebrates the imposition of the ashes on the Monday morning, according to the older Ambrosian tradition; the capitular Holy Mass is officiated by the Grand Penitentiary who lays the ashes on the individual canons.
During the Rite, psalm 50: the Miserere is sung, alternated with antiphons.
The evening Eucharist and the Rite of the Imposition of the Ashes on Sunday 14th February will be officiated in the cathedral by His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop Card. Angelo Scola at 17.30. At all the Holy Masses on Monday 15th February, it will be possible to receive the ashes blessed by the Archbishop during the celebration on the previous day.