Ash Wednesday

LENTEN DEVOTION: Who Takes Away The Sin Of The World by Johann Ernst von Holst

March 6, 2019

From The Crucified Is My Love Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29) This testimony of John’s is the heart and the star of the whole gospel.  It is true, John’s mouth was soon closed by a bloody death, but the apostles proclaimed it further: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  They too have died, but this gospel rings through all centuries and hallows them.  And when today the church of the Lord gathers to celebrate the Holy Supper, she looks up to the Crucified One and thousands of voices sing, “O Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world, have mercy on us and give us your peace!” We are often weighed down with our work, our cares and suffering, but if we had [...]

POETRY: Marked by Ashes by Walter Brueggemann

March 6, 2019

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day… This day—a gift from you. This day—like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received. This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility. This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home halfway back to committees and memos, halfway back to calls and appointments, halfway on to next Sunday, halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant, half turned toward you, half rather not. This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday, but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes— we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth: of failed hope and broken promises, of forgotten children and frightened women, we ourselves are ashes to ashes, [...]

LENTEN DEVOTION: The Lamb Of God by Johann Ernst von Holst

March 6, 2019

From The Crucified Is My Love The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Isaac asked his father, Abraham, on that strange journey, (Genesis 22:7).  His father answered, deeply moved, “God will provide for himself the lamb.”  But the lamb that God the Lord would in fact provide as a sacrifice for the lost world was described in this way by the prophet Isaiah: “He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth,” [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 1 — Jesus Is Condemned To Death, by Joan Chittister

March 1, 2017

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience The look on the face of Jesus in McKenzie’s rendering of the first station says it all: Accused, judged, and condemned Jesus stands totally undone, emotionally drained, more by the charges against him than by any act of physical violence.  Here, in this first station, we see what actually happens to the person who is publicly incriminated by a system that is clearly arrayed against him.  It is one of those rush-to-judgment moments when no one really bothers to ask or let alone to listen to your own explanation of circumstances or your understanding of it or even your distance from the issue at hand. It is as much a shocking time as it is a sad one.  This moment is about the accusal of the [...]

POETRY: Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

March 1, 2017

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden, Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks, Our peace in His will And even among these rocks Sister, mother And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, Suffer me not to be separated And let my cry come unto [...]

POETRY: The Litany by Dana Gioia

February 11, 2016

This is a litany of lost things, a canon of possessions dispossessed, a photograph, an old address, a key. It is a list of words to memorize or to forget—of amo, amas, amat, the conjugations of a dead tongue in which the final sentence has been spoken. This is the liturgy of rain, falling on mountain, field, and ocean— indifferent, anonymous, complete— of water infinitesimally slow, sifting through rock, pooling in darkness, gathering in spring, then rising without our agency, only to dissolve in mist or cloud or dew. This is a prayer of unbelief, to candles guttering and darkness undivided, to incense drifting into emptiness. It is the smile of a stone Madonna and the silent fury of the consecrated wine, a benediction of the death [...]

POETRY: Ash Wednesday by Anya Silver

February 10, 2016

How comforting, the smudge on each forehead: I’m not to be singled out after all From dust you came. To dust you will return. My mastectomy, a memento mori, prosthesis smooth as a polished skull. I like the solidarity of this prayer, the ointment thumbed into my forehead, my knees pressing hard on the velvet rail. If God won’t give me His body to clutch, I’ll grind this soot into my skin instead. If I can’t hold the flame that burned my breast, I’ll char my brow; I’ll blacken my pores; I’ll flaunt with ash this flaw in His [...]

PRAYER: Ash Wednesday by Christine Odell

February 10, 2016

From Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary Gracious God, we would grieve with you over the sins of your world: the sin of warfare that leaves a young, strong man with no sight and no hope;Silence the sin of injustice that leaves a dissident woman in prison tortured, degraded and betrayed;Silence the sin of greed that leaves a swollen-bellied child weakly wailing with hunger.Silence Gracious God, we would grieve with you over the sins of our world. We pray for a true repentance, a turning of hearts and minds and lives. God, create a pure heart for us: give us a new and steadfast spirit. Gracious God, we would grieve with you over the sins of humankind: the sin of selfishness that leaves us seeing only our own needs, blinding us to [...]

ASH WEDNESDAY: Spiritual Medicine by Thomas Merton

February 9, 2016

From Seasons of Celebration Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.  It cannot be otherwise, as it forms part of the great Easter cycle. The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life, in which the church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters in the Kingdom of Life which he has established once and for all by his definitive victory over sin and death.  We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ver sacrum, the church’s “holy spring” in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to [...]

ASH WEDNESDAY: In Which I Am Hungry, Crabby, And Grateful On Ash Wednesday by Kerry Weber

February 18, 2015

From Mercy in the City As I’m waking up on Ash Wednesday morning, my first thought is how glad I am that I didn’t decide to make morning workouts part of my Lenten routine.  My normal coping mechanism after a late night – a vanilla iced latte – doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of the traditional Ash Wednesday fast, so I walk past the coffee shop near my office and instead fill up my water bottle before sitting down at my desk. The morning passes relatively quickly, and at noon I join my coworkers, Jesuit and lay, in the simple chapel on the fifth floor of our office building, which doubles as a Jesuit residence.  One of the nice things about having priests for coworkers is that on days like this, I don’t [...]

EVELYN UNDERHILL THROUGH LENT: Ash Wednesday — A Time For Self-Examination by Evelyn Underhill

February 18, 2015

From The School of Charity Everyone who is engaged on a great undertaking, depending on many factors for its success, knows how important it is to have a periodical stocktaking.  Whether we are responsible for a business, an institution, a voyage, or an exploration – even for the well-being of a household – it is sometimes essential to call a halt; examine our stores and our equipment, be sure that all necessaries are there and in good order, and that we understand the way in which they should be used.  It is no good to have tins without tin openers, bottles of which the contents have evaporated, labels written in an unknown language, or mysterious packages of which we do not know the use.  Now the living-out of the spiritual [...]

PRAYER: Prayers Of Confession For Lent (Ash Wednesday through the Second Week of Lent) by David N. Mosser

February 26, 2013

From Prayers for Lent and Holy Week,  Ash Wednesday Prayer of Confession Gracious God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole hearts, and we have not loved our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Forgive us, we pray.  Open our hearts wide to you, that you might renew our faith and strengthen us for obedient service.  Amen. Prayer of Confession O God who will not let us go, as we worship this day we confess that we have been so wrapped up in ourselves that we have taken little note of either you or our neighbor who is in need.  Forgive us, we pray, when we forget that our own scripture tells us that you, O God, “created humankind in your image, in the image of you, you created them; male and female you created [...]

ASH WEDNESDAY: Rend Your Hearts by Wendy M. Wright

February 14, 2013

From The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost  It is common to think of Heaven, God’s place, as ordered and harmonious.  Dante depicted it this way in the third book of his Divine Comedy.  Shining, light-filled, an eternal pearl, Dante’s holy spheres reflect the Divine Intelligence in their circling unity.  So, too, Hildegard of Bingen, the twelfth-century Benedictine abyss, in her visionary treatise, Scivias, beheld the heights of Heaven and in it the choirs of angels arranged in ever-widening concentric circles, mandala-like, their celestial voices raised in magnificent and mellifluous chorus. As with Heaven, so with God.  Our most common imaginings about God are of peace, beauty, fullness, wholeness, [...]