Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a period of forty days (not including Sundays) that culminates in Holy Week with the remembrance of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. During the liturgy today, the words of the1979 Book of Common Prayer are read aloud, describing what this day is all about:
“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”
Ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the Faithful as part of the reminder that though we be mortal, if we die in Christ, we shall be raised anew in Christ.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
- Psalm 103
- 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10
- Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Worship Services on Ash Wednesday
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