Ash Wednesday – 2017

Concerning the Service

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent: a time of penitence, fasting and prayer, in preparation for the great Feast of the Resurrection.

The season of Lent began in the earliest days of the Church as time of preparation for those seeking to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. The forty days refer to our Lord’s time of fasting in the wilderness; and since Sundays are never fast days, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten Fast.

Throughout the Old Testament, ashes are used as a sign of sorrow and repentance, and Christians have traditionally used the same to indicate sorrow for our own sin, and as a reminder that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Like Adam and Eve, we have disobeyed and rebelled against God, and are under the same judgment, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19b).

But as we are marked with ashes in the same manner that we were signed with the cross in Baptism, we are also reminded of the life we share in Jesus Christ, the second Adam (Romans 5:17, 6:4). It is in this sure hope that we begin the journey of these forty days, that by hearing and answering our Savior’s call to repent, we may enter fully into the joyful celebration of his resurrection.


The Ash Wednesday Liturgy


The people stand, and the Celebrant says

                       Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins.
People           His mercy endures forever.

The Celebrant invites the people to the observance of a holy Lent, either here or following the sermon, saying

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. In this manner, 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 that all Christians continually have to renew our 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 alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

And to make a right beginning, let us now pray for grace, that we may faithfully keep this Lent.

The Celebrant and people kneel. A period of silent prayer follows.

The Celebrant then says

Let us pray.

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.

The following lessons are read. The Psalm may be said or sung.

The First Lesson

Reader     A reading from Isaiah 58:1-12

58 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
   lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
   to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily
   and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
   and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
   they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
   Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,[a]
   and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
   and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
   will not make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
   a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
   and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
   and a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of wickedness,
   to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[b] go free,
   and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
   and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
   the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
   you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
   the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
   and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
   and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
   and satisfy your desire in scorched places
   and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
   like a spring of water,
   whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
   the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Reader         The Word of the Lod

People           Thanks be to God

The Psalm

Reader       A reading from Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,*
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,*
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,*
   who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,*
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good*
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness*
   and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,*
   his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,*
   slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,*
   nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,*
   nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,*
   so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,*
   so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,*
   so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;[a]*
   he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;*
   he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,*
   and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,*
   and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant*
   and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,*
   and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,*
   you mighty ones who do his word,
   obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,*
   his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works,*
   in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

All Together

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end, Amen.

The Second Lesson

Reader              A Reading from 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
   and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

Reader            The Word of the Lod

People              Thanks be to God

The Gospel 

All stand for the Gospel, and the Priest reads it, first saying

Priest          The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

People         Glory to you, Lord Christ.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.(Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21)

After the Gospel, the Reader says

                          The Gospel of the Lord.

People              Praise to you, Lord Christ.

A Brief Devotion

A Hymn 

1. Jesus, priceless treasure,
source of purest pleasure,
truest friend to me,
long my heart hath panted,
till it well-nigh fainted,
thirsting after thee.
Thine I am, O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer naught to hide thee,
ask for naught beside thee.

2. In thine arms I rest me;
foes who would molest me
cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms our fear;
sin and hell in conflict fell
with their heaviest storms assail us;
Jesus will not fail us.

3. Hence, all thoughts of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
though the storms may gather,
still have peace within;
yea, whate’er we here must bear,
still in thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure!

Penitential Psalm and Imposition of Ashes

The Celebrant says

Let us now call to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.

If ashes are to be imposed, the Celebrant says

Almighty God, you have created us from the dust of the earth: bless these ashes, we pray, that they may be for us a symbol of our mortality and a sign of our penitence, that we may remember that it is by your grace alone that we receive the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Then ashes are imposed with the following words

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Psalm 51

All kneel. Psalm 51:1-18 is sung or said.

Have mercy on me, O God,*
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion*
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity*
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,*
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned*
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict*
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,*
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;*
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;*
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;*
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins*
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,*
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence*
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation*
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,*
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,*
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,*
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;*
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;*
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion,*
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,*
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Confession and Litany of Penitence

Silence may follow. The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

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.
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.

Celebrant            Lord, have mercy upon us:
People                  For we have sinned against you.

Celebrant            Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                  For we have sinned against you.

The Celebrant alone continues, and the people respond

For all our unfaithfulness and disobedience;
for the pride, vanity, and hypocrisy of our lives;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                  For we have sinned against you.

For our self-pity and impatience, and our envy of those
we think more fortunate than ourselves;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                   For we have sinned against you.

For our unrighteous anger, bitterness and resentment;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                    For we have sinned against you.

For our sexual impurity, our exploitation of other people,
and our failure to give of ourselves in love;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                    For we have sinned against you.

For our self-indulgent appetites and ways,
and our intemperate pursuit of worldly goods and comforts;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                    For we have sinned against you.

For our dishonesty in daily life and work,
our ingratitude for your gifts, and our failure to heed your call.
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                    For we have sinned against you.

For our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our indifference to injustice and cruelty;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                     For we have sinned against you.

For our wastefulness and misuse of your creation,
and our lack of concern for those who come after us;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                      For we have sinned against you.

For all false judgments, for prejudice and contempt of others,
and for all uncharitable thoughts and actions toward our neighbors;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                        For we have sinned against you.

For our negligence in prayer and worship,
for our presumption and abuse of your means of grace;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                        For we have sinned against you.

For seeking the praise of others rather than the approval of God;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                         For we have sinned against you.

For our failure to commend the faith that is in us;
Lord, have mercy upon us:

People                         For we have sinned against you.

The Celebrant and people then pray

Show favor to your people, O Lord, who turn to you in weeping, fasting, and prayer. For you are a merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and abounding in steadfast love. You spare when we deserve punishment, and in your wrath you remember mercy. Spare your people, good Lord, spare us; in the multitude of your mercies, look upon us and forgive us; through the merits and mediation of your blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Absolution

The Priest, alone stands and, facing the people, says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, desires not the death of sinners, but that they may turn from their wickedness and live. He has empowered and commanded his ministers to pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He now pardons and absolves all who truly repent and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel. For this reason, we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that our present deeds may please him, the rest of our lives may be pure and holy, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Comfortable Words

The Celebrant may then the following,

If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2

The Peace

The Celebrant then says to the people

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

People                         And with your spirit.

The Lord’s Prayer

Celebrant and People

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.

The following prayer may be used to conclude the liturgy.

Celebrant                  Let us pray.
O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart:
that desiring you, we may seek you;
and that seeking you, we may find you;
and that finding you, we may love you;
and that loving you, we may hate those sins from which you have delivered us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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