Ash Wednesday Worship

 

Ash Wednesday   

[This is a quiet, spare worship. For those who are moving from a Mardi Gras gathering into the quiet of this worship I would suggest that any carnival music used be gradually silenced or that one by one each instrument fade away til only one is left playing.   A preamble to the Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday shared meal given before the meal would prepare people for this.  Shrove Tuesday was the day before Ash Wednesday when people confessed or were shriven of their sins.  And pancakes became a tradition in order to use up the ingredients traditionally relinquished during Lent.

Once the mood of the gathering is changed people could proceed to the seats they will have in worship.  If each person had a Mardi Gras Mask and beads they could either place their beads in the baptismal font on the way to their seats perhaps the presider saying,”our joys and tears are held in the life of the One whose journey we share”.  The masks could be kept until just before the imposition of ashes when they could be gathered in a basket or laid in a pile as each individual comes forward, a sign of laying aside all pretence before accepting the ashes and the love.)

The Worship Itself

The service proceeds without announcement.  Words spoken by the congregation are in bold.

 

“Should I mark more than the shining hours?”
Evan S. Connell
(Notes from a Bottle Found on the beach at Carmel)

 

Gathering Words:  Genesis 2:7

Introit Gather Us In MV 7

Gather us in, ground us in you
Gather us in, ground us in you
Gather us in, gather us in
Ground us, ground us, in You

Opening Reflection

On a dark night,
Inflamed by love-longing
O exquisite risk?
Undetected I slipped away.
My house, at last, grown still.

Dark Night of the Soul

 

Reflection

This is the night, so inflamed by love,
So full of longing
We take the great risk of remembering
Our origin in dust and breath
Surely the love is beyond measure
that moves us to be marked with the ashes of dying,
that like soft pinioned doves
we might know ourselves loosed again into the bright air of life.             Catherine Smith

A Reading from Psalm 51 (NRSV and Ancient Songs Sung Anew)

Hymn:   Sunday’s Palms are Wednesday’s Ashes  VU 107

The Imposition of Ashes

[Here is the place where, if we are carrying masks, we lay them aside]

We come forward singing Dying we Live, returning to our seats following the imposition.  If you prefer the ashes be placed on your hands rather than your forehead please offer your hand palm facing down.   (The chant Dying we Live is one I created and led so it’s in my head.  I can write it out should anyone want to use it or you might substitute a chant that you have easily at hand in your collection of worship music.)

Dying we live
Dying we live
Dying we live in you

Presider:  (tenderly, as the ashes are drawn on forehead or hands)

Dust you are; to dust you will return
Love’s you are, to love you will return

Matthew 6:  1-4; 19-21

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.  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.  But when you give .  . do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. . . Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

Reflection

It seems to me that the time of snow has something to tell us about the time of ashes; the time we are slowed and hemmed in by the enclosure of winter storms, has something to tell us about the treasure that has our heart.

Macrina Wiedrekehr offers these winter words
Winter is a lesson about the fine art of loss and growth
Its lesson is clear;  there is only one way out of struggle
And that is by going into its darkness,
Waiting for the light and being open to new growth.

                                             Macrina Wiederkehr

And Mary Oliver offers these: I Worried

(The poem may be found in its entirety in Swan:  Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver.  It sets up the brief meditation.)                   

Though Oliver is writing from her age; youth worries too.
And young or old you can take your body
And go out into the morning or into the night
And sing the song of ashes
And the song of love.

Prayer

(We respond to the spoken words of this prayer with the following sung chant.)

Chant.  May we see Christ’s loving face
                May we be an icon of God’s grace        

(copyright Trisha Watts and Monica O’Brien,  I have the music for this but it can be listened to and purchased for download at As One Voice.  I found the easiest way to access on line was to go through  sixmaddens.org) 

 In our journey O God, you call us to the edge and we hear you say,
“Let go?

For those of us who are struggling to believe we hear you say, “I am with you, always, even until the end of time”

         May we see Christ’s loving face . . .

For your people throughout the world who suffer through poverty and oppression,
Bring justice, bring freedom, bring peace . . .

         May we see Christ’s loving face . . .

For your church that it may be a church of reconciliation and compassion
A church unafraid to know its dust and earth
A church unafraid to mirror resurrection

            May we see Christ’s loving face . . .

 

For each person here.

You know our deepest longings, our fears and desires.
We place our trust in You.

                May we see Christ’s loving face.

 

Closing Reflection

On a dark night,
Inflamed by love-longing
O exquisite risk?
Undetected I slipped away.
My house, at last, grown still.

Dark Night of the Soul

(silence)

This is the night, so inflamed by love,
So full of longing
We take the great risk of remembering
Our origin in dust and breath
Surely the love is beyond measure
That moves us to be marked with the ashes of dying
That like soft pinioned doves
We might know ourselves loosed again into the bright air of life.

 

Blessing

Go now marked by the humbling of dust and of love
God be with you

Closing Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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