“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.”
– Ash Wednesday Collect, Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Ash Wednesday is the dedication of an individual to cleanse him/herself during the 40 days of the Lenten Season. It’s significance is connected to the 40 days in which Jesus of Nazareth spent in the desert fighting against the temptations of the Evil One.
I attended two Ash Wednesday services. The first one was at an Anglo-Catholic Church. It was a 0730 service. I was quite surprised on how well attended it was. The Rector of the Parish was more energetic that I assumed he would be, considering the early start. The homily was pretty good, highlighting the nature of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season. I ran into a colleague’s daughter who wanted to dedicated herself before going off to work. It was a blessed experience.
The second service was more ecumenical. It took place at a Protestant seminary and it was officiated by a Congregationalist and a Methodist clergy persons. Several Baptists and Catholic lay leaders were participants as well. Although I did not receive the imposition of ashes (opted for a blessing) at this service, it was interesting seeing a liturgical ritual, in a free church setting.
This time last year, I was in Afghanistan officiating an Ash Wednesday service with a Baptist Minister and a Nazarene Pastor. At the time, still being endorsed as a Baptist, I preached the homily but did not receive nor impose ashes. A small part of me was a little jealous of my Nazarene counterpart for being able to do both. This year, I was able to partake in such a humbling ritual.