Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

My apologies, I thought I published this this morning:

Ash Wednesday

            Ash Wednesday is one of two official days of fasting, the other being Good Friday.  We do not celebrate the Eucharist this day, as that is a sign of celebration.  Where as Shrove Tuesday touches on themes of individual penitence, Ash Wednesday touches on the theme of corporate sin and penitence, that is sins as a church, a family, a society. 
            Ash Wednesday marks the first full day of Lent (which started yesterday at sundown).  Lent marks three events in the life of Christians.  First, Lent was the period in which people prepared for Baptism on the Great Vigil of Easter.  By the third century, this was a three year process, with the last 40 days being marked off by more severe penitence and prayer.  Secondly, Lent marked a time of special preparation for those  who had been excommunicated.  Like those preparing for baptism, it marked a special time of preparation, leading up to the point of being restored to communion, again, at the Great Vigil of Easter.  Lastly, and more recently, Lent is a time of special disciplines for those who desire to grow closer to the Lord.  In it we abstain from certain foods (traditionally meat), and we have special times of prayer and fasting to prepare for Easter.

During the service, ashes are blessed, and used to mark the sign of a cross on the foreheads of the penitents.  The ashes usually come from burning the palms used in the previous years Palm Sunday procession.   

Old Testament    Isaiah 58:1‑12
Psalm    103,  or 103:8‑14
Epistle    2 Corinthians 5:20b‑6:10
Gospel    Matthew 6:1‑6, 16‑21

Collect:  Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you 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 receive from you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness of our sins.  We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, now and forever.

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