Today we begin our 40-day journey of Lent, so with a heart of penance we pray:
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, forever and ever. Amen.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou return to the ground: for out of it wast thou taken. For dust thou art; and unto dust shalt thou return. Gen 3:19
O my all-merciful God and Lord,
Jesus Christ, full of pity:
Through Your great love You came down
and became incarnate in order to save everyone.
O Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace!
If You save anyone because of their works,
that would not be grace but only reward of duty,
but You are compassionate and full of mercy!
You said, O my Christ,
“Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die.”
If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me,
O my God and Creator, for I believe.
Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, O my God,
for You will find no works which could account me righteous.
O Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin,
and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one.
I promise that I will work to do Your will,
my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more.
Prayer of St. John Chrysostom
A reading from the Book of Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near-2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come. 2:12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God? 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
Here Endeth the Reading
A reading from the book of Isaiah 58: 1-12
1 CRY, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their wicked doings, and the house of Jacob their sins. 2 For they seek me from day to day, sad desire to know my ways, as a nation that hath done justice, and hath not forsaken the judgment of their God: they ask of me the judgments of justice: they are willing to approach to God. 3 Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded: have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice? Behold in the day of your fast your own will is found, and you exact of all your debtors. 4 Behold you fast for debates and strife. and strike with the fist wickedly. Do not fast as you have done until this day, to make your cry to be heard on high.
5 Is this such a fast as I have chosen: for a man to afflict his soul for a day? is this it, to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth and ashes? wilt thou call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden. 7 Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the harbourless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh. 8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go before thy face, end the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up. 9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear: thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou wilt take away the chain out of the midst of thee, and cease to stretch out the finger, and to speak that which profiteth not. 10 When thou shalt pour out thy soul to the hungry, and shalt satisfy the afflicted soul then shall thy light rise up in darkness, and thy darkness shall be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will give thee rest continually, and will fill thy soul with brightness, and deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail 12 And the places that have been desolate for ages shall be built in thee: thou shalt raise up the foundations of generation and generation: and thou shalt be called the repairer of the fences, turning the paths into rest.
Here Endeth the Reading.
A reading from the Epistle of 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 6:2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
The Word of the Lord.
I call all Sinners Poor and Needy to hear the Gospel. To repent of your sins and be penitent of heart!
A Reading from the most Holy Gospel According to: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
6:1 “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. 6:2 “So whenever 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. 6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 6:5 “And whenever 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. 6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Gospel of the Lord.
What happened to the Alleluia you may be asking…Guess why you are here today…Today is Dies Cinerum… in other words Lent is upon us and we are gathered to prepare ourselves to die with Christ so that we too may live with Him in Glory.
What is Ash Wednesday? On Ash Wednesday, ashes are blessed, mixed with either holy oil or water, and placed upon the head with the sign of the cross, or sprinkled on the forehead. The ashes are made from burning palm branches blessed the previous year on Palm Sunday. When the priest imposes the ashes he says either “remember man you are dust, and to dust you will return” (see Genesis 3:19), or “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
The ashes serve a dual purpose. First, as the above words imply, we are reminded of our mortality and humanity as we begin the Lenten Fast. Second, the ashes are a Biblical symbol of repentance, sorrow, and humility. There are many cases in the Scriptures of wearing ashes as a sign of penitence, often while wearing sackcloth. In 2 Samuel 13:19, Tamar puts on ashes and tears her clothes as a sign of sadness and repentance. In Esther 4:1-3, after learning of the king’s decree to kill all Jews, Mordecai tears his garments, and puts on sackcloth and ashes. His fellow Jews do the same thing, as well as beginning to fast. The prophet Jeremiah (6:26) urges his readers to “gird on sackcloth and roll in ashes.”
“Ash Wednesday is not a holiday in the Eastern Church, and developed only in the West. Orthodox Churches begin Lent on a Monday, known as “Clean Monday.” Ash Wednesday as an official fast day dates to at least the 8th century, since it appears in the Gregorian Sacramentary from that period. Originally, Lent began on a Sunday. However, in order to bring the number of days of Lent to 40 (the days Jesus fasted in the wilderness), the beginning of Lent was eventually transferred to a Wednesday.
Originally, Ash Wednesday was the day when public penitents in Rome began their penance. Recall that in the early Church, penance was often public and protracted. It was only later that private confession and penance began, for pastoral reasons. When public penance gradually fell into disuse by the 8th century, Ash Wednesday became a day of penitence and fasting for all members of the Church. Today, Ash Wednesday is a universal Fast day and Holy day of Obligation.
What is Lent? Lent is a period of fasting leading up to Easter. The season is rooted in the 40-day fast of Jesus in the wilderness. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and ends right before the evening Masses of Holy Thursday, although Lenten penance continues through Holy Saturday.
In basic terms, Lent is the season before Easter, in the Western Church, lasting liturgically from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of Holy Thursday exclusive The evening of Holy Thursday begins the The Easter Triduum, which lasts from Holy Thursday to the Evening Prayer of Easter Day. However, Lenten fasting and penance continue until the end of Holy Week, and all of Holy Week is included in the traditional 40 day Lenten fast, despite Lent ending liturgically on Holy Thursday.
The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our relationship with Jesus Christ and our service to him.
Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius describes as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.”
There are a few basic tasks that traditionally have been associated with Lent. Many of these have a long history. These are fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. In addition, reading the Scriptures and the Church’s Writings can help one grow during the season.
So that is a crash course on our Lenten Journey. I ask each of you to remember this not only during Lent should we be self-sacrificing it should be a yearlong endeavor. Practice random acts of kindness and show sacrificial love to all you meet. Come all ye an hear the Truth. Participate in the Stations of the Cross, come to confession, pray the Holy Rosary, and make time to reflect on your journey with Christ.
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 body of 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 continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, 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.
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Bless these ashes, and grant that they may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return! All God’s Church Say: Amen!