ash-wednesdayPlease join us at the Cathedral on Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday services will be held on March 5 at 7:00 am, noon, and 5:30 pm. The services typically last 30-40 minutes.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those 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 thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect for Ash Wednesday

What is Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. Traditionally Christians fast on Ash Wednesday.

Why do we receive the ashes?

Ashes are a symbol of penance, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. Following the example of the Christians and Jews in ages past, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins — just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Eden because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion.

Where do the ashes come from?

The ashes are made from the palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. They are mixed with holy oil. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on him with repentant hearts.