Ash Wednesday

For just about every other year of my life, the fact that today is Ash Wednesday made no impact on me, I paid no attention, gave it little care. For most of my life, I really had no idea what Ash Wednesday was other than Catholics did it, so it was probably bad. I cringe realizing this as yet another layer of my being needing repentance.

This year, marks a new page for me. I intend to honor Ash Wednesday today as best I can, and continue on in the honoring of Lent beginning today. I have three children, one a new born, and I desire that we as a family honor the ethos of Ash Wednesday and Lent. That we take place in the repentance it requires, that we suffer the introspection it begs, and that we deepen our spirituality therein. If you know nothing of this sacred day of the church, I would encourage you to spend a few moments today seeking out the significance and place. I would encourage you to take a moment from your busy schedule and reflect on the many shortcomings in your life – your tangible moral failure as well as the more nebulous sinful structures and systems in which you contribute to the proliferation of evil in this world. Ignore the misuses of this holiday in the history of the church, and seek out the good that it can be for ourselves. Surely we would be moved to tears if we would but stop to consider our sins. Perhaps that, more than anything, keeps us from taking today seriously. As a way of aiding my own spirituality, and perhaps your own, I offer the below prayers and services of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer for Ash Wednesday.

“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all 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 you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

“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. The 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 whihc 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 moral nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”

“Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our morality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

[This is an incredible prayer!]

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lac of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.