Ash Wednesday

February 17, 2021

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Prior to the service, the Officiant and People prepare tokens of mortality to be burned to ash, if practicable, and imposed during the rite. These may be palms leaves, plants from other sources, paper, or the dust of the earth itself.

The People write upon any paper to be burned such memories from the previous year from whose burden they seek relief and release, such sins and weaknesses as they would put aside for Lent and beyond, such disciplines as they would follow during Lent, or such prayers as they would have ascend to heaven, as it were in the smoke of incense rising.

Candles are lit. The Officiant says:

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, acknowledging our weaknesses, and being mindful of our needs, may obtain of you, God of all mercy, perfect remission, forgiveness, and healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn 143: “The glory of those forty days”

1 The glory of these forty days we celebrate with songs of praise;

for Christ, through whom all thing were made, himself has fasted and has prayed.


2 Alone and fasting Moses saw the loving God who gave the law;

and to Elijah, fasting, came the steeds and chariots of flame.


3 So Daniel trained his mystic sight, delivered from the lions’ might;

and John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became the herald of Messiah’s name.


4 Then grant us, Lord, like them to be full oft in fast and prayer with thee;

our spirits strengthen with thy grace, and give us joy to see thy face.



Scripture Reading: Joel 2:1-17

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain:
let all who dwell in the land tremble: for the day of the Lord comes, and is nigh at hand;

A day of darkness and gloom, of dark clouds and gloaming,
as the dawn spread upon the mountains in shadow:
a great people and strong; and there has never been the like,
nor shall be after them, even to the many generations.

Fire devours before them; and behind them burns a flame: the land an Eden before them,
and behind them wild desolation, and nothing shall escape it.
Their appearance is as that of horses; and as masters of horse shall they run.
Like chariots on the mountains shall they leap, a flame devouring stubble,
a host arrayed for battle.

Before their face shall they be much pained: all faces shall gather in gloom.
They shall run like the mighty; climb like them of war; run and not break ranks:

neither shall one thrust another; each shall walk every one on the path:
and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.

They shall run to and fro in the city; they shall run upon the wall,
they shall climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in like thieves.
10 The earth shall quake before them; and the heavens tremble:
the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars withdraw their shining:
11 And the Lord shall utter before them in might:
the day of the Lord is great and terrible; who can abide it?

12 Therefore, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning:
13 rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord:
for the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, of great kindness, repenting of evil.

14 Who knows whether they will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind them;
even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord?

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, call a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 gather the people,
sanctify them, assemble the elders, gather the children, and the infants at the breast:
send the bridegroom from his chamber, and the bride from her closet.

17 Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar,
and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine own to reproach,
that the heathen should rule over them, saying, “Where is their God?”

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Hymn 411: “O bless the Lord, my soul”

1 O bless the Lord, my soul, His grace to thee proclaim;

and all that is within me bless his holy Name.


2 O bless the Lord, my soul, His mercies bear in mind;

forget not all his benefits, the Lord to thee is kind.


3 He will not always chide; he will with patience wait;

his wrath is ever slow to rise and ready to abate.


4 He pardons all thy sins, prolongs thy feeble breath;

he healeth thine infirmities and ransoms thee from death.


5 He clothes thee with his love, upholds thee with his truth;

and like the eagle he renews the vigor of thy youth.


6 Then bless his holy Name, whose grace hath made thee whole,

whose loving-kindness crowns thy days: O bless the Lord, my soul!

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[a]

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, who will reward you.

16 “When you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, who will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Hymn 699: “Jesus, lover of my soul” (vv.1-2: soloist; v.3 congregation)

1 Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly,

while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high:

hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life be past;

safe into thy haven guide, O receive my soul at last.


2 Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on thee;

leave, ah! Leave me not alone, still support and comfort me!

All my trust on thee is stayed; all my help from thee I bring;

cover my defenseless head with the shadow of thy wing.


3 Plenteous grace with thee is found, grace to cleanse from every sin;

let the healing streams abound, make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of thee:

spring thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity.



The Bidding

The Officiant and People prepare their tokens of mortality, burning them if practicable, reserving the ash or dust for imposition.
The Officiant then bids the People to the observance of a holy Lent, saying

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians have to renew continually their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the presence of God, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Silence is then kept for a time, all kneeling.

  The Bishop, if present, or the Officiant, prays as follows:

  Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the
  earth: Grant that these ashes [and dust] may be to us a
  sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember
  that it is by your grace alone that we have everlasting life;
  through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

  The People impose the ashes or earth, saying

  Remember that we are dust [of the earth],
  and to dust [and the earth] we shall return.


The Cantor chants the following Psalm

Psalm 51    Miserere mei, Deus[1]

  1     Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
           in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

  2     Wash me through and through from my wickedness *
           and cleanse me from my sin.

  3     For I know my transgressions, *
           and my sin is ever before me.

  4     Against you only have I sinned *
           and done what is evil in your sight.

  5     And so you are justified when you speak *
           and upright in your judgment

  6     Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *
           a sinner from my mother’s womb.

  7     For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *
           and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

  8     Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *
           wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

  9     Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
           that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10     Hide your face from my sins *
           and blot out all my iniquities.

11     Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
           and renew a right spirit within me.

12     Cast me not away from your presence *
           and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13     Give me the joy of your saving help again *
           and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14     I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *
           and sinners shall return to you.

15     Deliver me from death, O God, *
           and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,
           O God of my salvation.

16     Open my lips, O Lord, *
           and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17     Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice; *
           but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

18     The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
           a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


Litany of Penitence

The Officiant says

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you, to one another, and to the communion of saints in heaven and on earth, that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Readers, responsively, continue

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all past unfaithfulness: pride, hypocrisy, and impatience,
We confess to you, Lord.

Self-indulgent appetites and ways, and exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Anger at our frustration, and envy of those on whom fortune has smiled,
We confess to you, Lord.

Intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and dishonesty in life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Negligence in prayer and worship, and lack of faith in the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

For the wrongs we have done, for blindness to human need and suffering,
and for indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, O Lord.

For deceits, false judgments, a lack of charity toward our neighbors,
and for prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, O Lord.

For the waste and pollution of the world, and heedlessness of those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, O Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of the resurrection.


The Blessing

The Bishop, if present, or the Officiant, stands and, facing the people, says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Hymn 662: “Abide with me”

1 Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;

the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide:

when other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.


2 I need thy presence every passing hour;

what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.


3 I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;

ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.

Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if thou abide with me.


4 Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;

shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;

heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.



Participants in this Liturgy


Readers (2)

Choristers (2-4; may be any of the above)

Cantor (1; may be any of the above)


[1] Please pause the recording to hear Fr. Serafim, a priest in the Assyrian Orthodox Church, chant this psalm in Aramaic. YouTube link: