Ash Wednesday Services
February 22, 2023
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a time of reflection, repentance, and turning our hearts to God in preparation for our journey through Christ's death and resurrection.
The History of Lent:
In keeping with the practice of the ancient people of Israel, early Christians used sackcloth and ashes as a sign of their repentance. Though the custom began as private devotion, by the eleventh century the reception of ashes as a sign of repentance had become a universal practice in the Western Church.
The earliest Christian rite associated with the wearing of ashes was the admission of public penitents. Those who expressed sorrow for their sins would wear ashes on their heads so that their fellow Christians might pray for them and welcome them back into the communion of the church before Easter.
This rite of repentance and forgiveness has now been given to the whole church in the Ash Wednesday invitation to fast, pray, and undertake acts of self-denial. In the Litany of Penitence we acknowledge our sins and pray for forgiveness an renewal of life, asking God to turn our hearts away from those things which separate us from God and from one another. We pray that by Christ's mercy, God's holy work may be accomplished in us.
The words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," are spoken to each person who receives ashes on this day. This mark is an embodied sign that we all stand before God as mortals and sinners; it is also a reminder of the forgiveness and redemptive love that God shows to each of us and to the whole world.