Ash Wednesday, 1st Day of Lenten Season 2008
The Collect for Ash Wednesday
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you 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 brokenness, 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, now and for ever. Amen.
Lent is officially here. One day after “Super (Duper) Tuesday” in the States with all those Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses. Two days after the Super Bowl (by Australian reckoning).
The Ash Wednesday service at St. John’s was simply beautiful today. The big pipe organ played the prelude, pre-communion hymn, post-communion instrumental and recessional today. It was a breathtaking sound to behold within the Gothic space of the cathedral itself. And for once, there was more than the usual 2-4 people present at the 12:30 Eucharist service. Including two servers (that I’ve seen a number of times during weekday Eucharists at St. John’s) and a deaconess (who I haven’t seen before attending weekday Eucharist).
The imposition of the ashes on our foreheads by Sub-Dean, Rev’d. Canon Dr. Peter Catt (who was also the celebrant at our Eucharist today) was solemn and we all got a chance to think through the words “Remember you are but dust and to dust you shall return.”
But apart from that, there was a reminder to us by Fr. Peter that, in the words of an unnamed Greek Orthodox priest/bishop, that during Lent we’re called to also remember that we are not just individuals within society that buzz around doing our own little thing, but we are persons and people who form relationships with others in community. And that as Christians, our Lent is not spent entirely within our own private penitential doings, but it happens within the context of a worshiping community. We are penitent and repentant in the context of our own failings in our own relationship with God. But also penitent and repentant in the context of our own failings to others in the body of Christ.
It was rather humbling to be standing behind the Dean of the Cathedral, the Right Rev’d. (Assisting Bishop) John Parkes for both the imposition of the ashes and Eucharist. Normally I would have thought that he would be presiding over the service today but instead, he was just like the rest of us laypersons within the pews in the Holy Spirit & Blessed Sacrament Chapels in the South Transept.
I’ll leave you all now with some words from the service booklet that we all were using today. For those of you from EMP-CMCA who don’t understand what on earth this thing called Lent is (and why on earth B would be participating in this ancient season in the church’s liturgical calendar), take a read on below.
Taken from the St. John’s Cathedral Service Booklet for Ash Wednesday 2008
Introductory Page (p. 1)
Lent is a time of preparation for Easter: forty days of preparation for fifty days of celebration. Lent means waiting: for the cross, the water and the fire. God does not need Lent, but we do. The rhythm of fast and feast taps into some elemental need of ours, where denial creates longings to be satisfied so that we come to deeper appreciation of God’s great gifts.
Lent is a time for preparing catechumens (baptismal candidates) for Easter baptism. It has its origins in the fact that preparation of catechumens is a process by which the whole Christian community is renewed. While Sunday is always a festival of the crucified and risen Christ, omission of the Gloria (Glory to God), along with addition of other Lenten material provided in this liturgy help set the tone for the Season. Some words will be different, but they will remain the same for the whole of this season.
So while the mood of the liturgy is changed, let us pray that our thirst, our passion and our love for the Lord Jesus in our lives is undiminished.
Invitation to the observance of Lent (p. 4)
Sisters and brothers in Christ, from the earliest days of the Church, Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.
At first this season was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who, having been excommunicated, were to be restored to the communion of the church. By keeping these days with care and attention Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and th assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and grow in faith and devotion to our Lord.
So, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer and fasting, by self-denial and acts of generosity and by reading and meditating on the word of God, let us keep a holy Lent.
For all of you who come across this blog entry, blessings and prayers for your 2008 Lenten season and may God work wonders during this time of preparation for Holy Week, that culminates in Pascha/Easter and the fifty days of celebration after it.