01 March 2017

Ash Wednesday and the beginning of
Lent in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

Winter turns to Spring in the churchyard at Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday [1 March 2017]. For my prayers and reflections each morning in Lent, I am using the Lent prayer diary produced by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and on Monday evenings I am inviting parishioners to the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, for a series of Bible studies based on Bishop Kenneth Kearon’s Lenten Bible Challenge to the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

To mark Ash Wednesday, we are having a celebration of the Eucharist, with a traditional Ash Wednesday observance, in in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, at 8 p.m. this evening.

I have been preparing and praying about that service today, and spending time this afternoon preparing ashes, using Palm Crosses from previous Palm Sunday celebrations.

The traditional Ash Wednesday invitation or exhortation in the Book of Common Prayer begins:

‘Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days 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 of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church's fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognize that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

‘I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.’

Silence may be kept.

Then the priest says:

Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully.

Almighty and everlasting God
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we may be truly sorry for our sins
and obtain from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The readings for Ash Wednesday are: Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51: 1-18; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.

The invitation to Communion begins:

Most merciful Lord,
your love compels us to come in.
Our hands were unclean, our hearts were unprepared;
we were not fit even to eat the crumbs from under your table.
But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation,
and share your bread with sinners.
So cleanse and feed us with the precious body and blood of your Son,
That he may live in us and we in him;
and that we, with the whole company of Christ,
may sit and eat in your kingdom. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us
both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace
that we may always most thankfully receive
these his inestimable gifts,
and also daily endeavour ourselves
to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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