The Service of Ash Wednesday

The ashes used for imposition are traditionally created by burning the palm leaves from the Palm Sunday service of the previous year. If no such leaves are available dried leaves may be purchased for burning or ashes may be used from the burning of incense.

The visual setting for Ash Wednesday should be stark and solemn. As the first day of Lent the color purple is used, suggesting the penitential nature of the season. Common Lenten symbols include the Cross, a person on a journey, or images of the desert. Use of dark gray and various earth tones is also appropriate, recalling the ashes as the image of human mortality. Since Ash Wednesday begins the season of Holy Lent, the people should enter in silence and remain silent through the beginning of the service.

The Processional is done is silence. There is either no ringing of bells or the slow ringing of solemn bells and the pace of the procession should be stately and sober

After the imposition of ashes, before the Litany of Penitence, the ministers should wash their hands. A cruet of water, lavabo bowl, and towel should be available.

Order of Service

Entrance & Lighting of Altar Candles

Greeting (Stand)

P: Our help is in the Name of the Lord.

C: Who made heaven and earth.

Invocation (Sit or Kneel)

P: Almighty and everlasting God, from the dust of the earth you brought forth man, breathing into him the breath of life. From the womb of the Virgin, You brought forth Your Son, instilling into Him the power of Your Grace. From You, O Lord, comes our life and our salvation. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us and forgive us our sins. Help us to strengthen our faith in You and grant unto us once again a place in Your service.

C: Amen.

Apostles' Creed (Stand)

A: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body , and the life everlasting. Amen.

Hymn (Stand)

Prophetic Lesson (Sit)

[Joel 2:1-2, 12-17a]

D: A reading from the Book of Joel... [Reading of text.] The word of the Prophets.

C: Thanks be to God.

Psalm 103 (Stand)

Apostolic Lesson (Sit)

[2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10]

D: A reading from the 2nd Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians... [Reading of Text.] The Word of the Apostles.

C: Thanks be to God.

Gradual (Stand)

P: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,

C: For He has visited and redeemed His people.

P: And has raised up a mighty salvation for us,

C: In the house of His servant David.

The Holy Gospel (Stand)

[Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21]

P: The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew.

C: Glory be to You, O Lord.

P: [Reading of the text.] The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

C: Praise be to You, O Christ.

Sermon (Sit)

The Call to a Holy Lent (Sit)

P: People of God, each year we remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which He overcame death and provided us with redemption from our sin. Lent is a season of preparation for the celebration of His victory, a time for personal and communal renewal and penitence. I call you to join with me in the observance of a Holy Lent and bid you to self-examination, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, the giving of alms, and fasting.

C: Amen.

The Imposition of Ashes (Kneel)

P: We begin our Lenten observance by using the ancient symbol of ashes. By this we are reminded of our own frailty and mortality and are called to humility and penitence.

A: Almighty God, You have created us out of the dust of the earth. May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality, that we may remember that is only by Your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life. Amen.

The Priest and other ministers rise and bless the ashes praying the following:

P: Almighty and everlasting God, who upon the people of Nineveh, repenting in dust and ashes, bestowed the healing of Your loving-kindness: mercifully grant that we, like them, may obtain Your pardon; through Jesus Christ our Lord (or in the Gaelic "Tri Cri'ost ar d'Tiarna).

C: Amen.

Then the Priest, setting incense in the censor, shall cense the ashes three times, saying nothing. Likewise, he shall sprinkle the ashes three times with the aspergill, saying nothing. Then, if there are other Priests present, one shall come and impose the ashes in the form of the Cross on the forehead of the Celebrant, who does not genuflect. The Priest imposing the ashes shall say "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". Then shall the Celebrant impose ashes on the rest of the clergy and laity present at the altar, saying "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". If no other Priest is available, then the Celebrant himself, kneeling before the altar, shall set ashes on his own forehead, repeating silently "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

Then the Priest shall turn, facing the congregation, and the congregation shall come and kneel before the Celebrant, who shall impose the ashes on each in the form of the Cross, saying "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return".

The Kyrie (Kneel)

The Litany of Penitence (Kneel or Sit)

P: We come to You, O Lord, for You alone can heal and restore us. We are not able to heal ourselves. We are not able to forgive ourselves. We are not able to restore ourselves. We are not able to sanctify ourselves. We are not able to satisfy ourselves. We come to You, O Lord, for You alone can make us whole. Lord, we have fallen into sin. We have fallen into wickedness. We have fallen into evil.

C: Lord, lift us up and set us free.

P: Lord, we have fallen into rebellion. We have fallen into disobedience. We have fallen into unrighteousness.

C: Lord, lift us up and set us free.

P: Lord, we have fallen into despair. We have fallen into disillusionment. We have fallen into depression.

C: Lord, lift us up and set us free.

P: Lord, we have fallen into loneliness. We have fallen into darkness. We have fallen into hell.

C: Lord, lift us up and set us free.

P: Lord of light, enter our past. Dispel the works of darkness. Destroy the deeds of evil. Defeat the thoughts of blackness. Enter the recording rooms of our memories. Enter the dark room of guilt and shame. Enter the secret room of sins hidden and forgotten.

A: Come, Lord of Light, and forgive. Come, Lord of Love, and set us free. Come, and scatter our darkness. Come, draw us closer to you. Amen.

The Absolution (Kneel)

P: As a called and ordained minister in Christ's Church and on His authority, I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, through His atoning death and glorious resurrection; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.

C: Amen.

Offertory (Sit or Kneel)

P: O Lord, our God, as we present this offering of ourselves, our time, our talent, and our treasure, make us pilgrims throughout these forty days. We pledge to walk in the light of Your Word and by the power of Your Spirit. Strengthen us in our commitment, we pray, that we may serve You and each other in the love of Christ, our Lord, in whose name we offer the song of thanksgiving.

C: Amen.

Doxology (Stand)

The Lord's Prayer (Sit or Kneel)

Hymn (Stand)

Benediction (Sit or Kneel)

P: May the Lord bless to you the earth beneath your feet. May the Lord bless to you the path whereon you go. May the Lord bless to you the desire for a Holy Lent. May the Lord bless to you the things whereon is set your mind, your love, and your hope. In the Name of the Father, the Son (+), and the Holy Spirit.

C: Amen.

Extinguishing of Altar Candles (Sit or Kneel)

Dismissal (Sit)

P: Go in peace to serve the Lord.

C: We go in the strength of Christ. Amen.

The congregation disperses in silence