Ash Wednesday in Cologne

On Ash Wednesday, I spent the day in the city of Cologne in Germany with my friend Christine. She and I stayed in the Cologne Downtown Hostel where we had this Cathedral view!

Together we went to Mass at the Cologne Cathedral. It was my first time attending Mass in German.   
We attended the Ash Wednesday Mass in the Marian Chapel with this image of the Annunciation. 
“In this Cathedral there have been kept and venerated for centuries the bones of the Wise Men, who at the beginning of the new age which dawned with the Incarnation of God, set out to pay homage to the truth Lord of the world. These men, in whom the knowledge of their time was summed up, become, therefore, the model of every man in search of truth. The knowledge which reason attains finds its completion in the adoration of divine Truth. The man who sets out towards this truth, does not suffer any loss of his freedom: on the contrary, in trusting dedication to the Spirit whom we have been promised through Jesus Christ’s redeeming work, he is led to complete freedom and to the fullness of a truly human existence.” – Pope John Paul II, “Address to Scientists and Students in the Cologne Cathedral, Germany” on November 15, 1980 (700th Anniversary of the death of St. Albert the Great)

We climbed the 532 steps of the Cathedral Tower…
… and saw Saint Peter’s bell!
After visiting the Cathedral, we had lunch across the street. 
Then, we visited this evocative Edith Stein Monument depicting her life as a young Jewish woman, then as a philosophy student, and finally as a Carmelite nun.

As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews…. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.

Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself ‘Christian.’ For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name. — Edith Stein, Letter to Pope Pius XI

The middle statue shows Stein in the process of conversion.  I marvelled at all of the thought and attention that went into creating this monument. Here you can see the Crown of Thorns lying between slabs that have shoes and numbers imprinted. 
Against the Ten Commandments-almost overwhelming them-are a pile of shoes. 
The shoes are all distinct and they look like twentieth-century shoes. Unlike the physical shoes on display in former concentration camps that have become faded and begun to all appear alike, the sculptor was able to emphasize the uniqueness of every person who was murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Just days ago I stood before the huge mound of ashes in the Mausoleum at Majdanek and a few months ago I prayed in the Chapel of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Stein] in Wrocław where there is the relic of a fragment of her habit and a symbolic handful of ashes of the victims killed in Auschwitz. Seventy years later I come to Germany and receive ashes on my forehead, hearing the words: “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

Next, Christine and I visited the National Socialism Documentation Center. The Center now includes the former house prison of the Cologne Gestapo. “The former house prison of the Gestapo with its remaining prison cells and the inscriptions by the prisoners is the most immediate and intense reminder of the terror of the NS period linked to the EL-DE House. The former Gestapo prison as a memorial is the core of the NS Documentation Centre and represents a cultural asset of national and European significance.”

We descended the steps and entered into the former prison cells. It was eerie. We learned that, through restoration work, the Museum was able to uncover 1800 inscriptions and drawings made by prisoners using pencil, chalk, or lipstick and also inscriptions carved using nails, screws, or fingernails.

This was the Glockengasse Synagogue which was destroyed during the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 together with the other synagogues in Cologne.

We saw this map showing the routes on which Jews were deported to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. On the far right is Rovno, where my grandfather was born. I haven’t seen it on a map before, so it was interesting to see how close it is to where I live now in Lublin.

Walking back to our hostel, we had this solemn and dramatic view of the Cathedral at night. It was an especially meaningful Ash Wednesday. Thanks to Christine for sharing this day with me.


One thought on “Ash Wednesday in Cologne

  1. Your pictures and your reflections on your day were so moving! It is great to be able to hear about your journey. How interesting that you will be experiencing life in Poland so near to where your grandfather had lived! I am looking forward to hearing what Polish life is like!


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