Ash Wednesday
Bible Reading
Church Year
BCP 1928

Prayer-Works Follow the Church Year.

Christ the King LENTEN SEASON

Lenten Season
Ash Wednesday

The first day of Lent,
commonly called Ash Wednesday.


The Collect.
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. Amen.

<This Collect is to be said every day in Lent,
after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.>

For the Epistle. Joel ii. 12.
TURN ye even to me, saith the LORD, with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent-eth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat-offer-ing and a drink-offering unto the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 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 heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: where-fore should they say among the people, Where is their God?

The Gospel. St. Matthew vi. 16.
WHEN ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for your-selves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

er of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night

About Ash Wednesday

The First Day of Lent

Introit: I will cry unto God Most High: unto God that performeth all things for me.

Yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge: until these calamities be overpast.

Psalm: Be merciful unto me, 0 God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in Thee.

Collect: 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 con- trite 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 . . .

Epistle: Joel 2: 12-19

Gospel: Matthew 6: 16-21


The name Lent is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for Spring, lencten, German, Lenz (Spring); the time when the days lengthen.

Ash Wednesday or Dies Cinerum (Day of ashes) is also called Caput jejunii (the head or beginning of the fast).

It’s probable that the Lenten Fast found its origin in the desire of the early Christians to perpetuate in the lives of the believers the deep sorrow and mourning experienced during those terrible hours of gloom and anguish when our Lord was crucified and lay in the tomb. This latter being just forty hours in length. But as that first sorrow gave place to the great joy in the Resurrection, (the restoration of their Lord to them), so it naturally became a period of devout preparation for this most holy commemoration. From this the idea of a preparatory fast developed.

Soon the brief period is extended; it covers the entire week, so rich in memories. Then it grows to two weeks, reckoning from the certain Event in the Gospel wherein the outward enmity of the Jews is very markedly shown. A remembrance of this still remains in the Church Year, Passion Sunday, and the Gospel of that Day. However those who found so much in symbolism and mystical interpretation could not pass by the series of Forties: The Forty Hours, the Forty Days of the Temptation in the Wilderness, etc. So the period of the Fast and strictness in other externals was lengthened to forty days, and called the Quadragesima.

In the early Church, during this period, the catechumens were prepared for admission into the Church by Baptism at Easter. Traces of this practice still remain in the Propers of the various Lenten Sundays. It was a Season of deep humiliation, of abstinence from social intercourse and pleasures. Fasting was rigorously practiced. Frequent and devout attendance at Divine Worship was enjoined. It was, and should be still, a Season of deep penitence and mourning for one’s sin. This is typified in the Liturgical Color of the Season, Purple, the Church’s color of mourning.


When we read the Propers for Ash Wednesday, it will be seen immediately that Introit, Lections and Collect have been chosen to conform to the idea of the Day and the general purpose of the Season it introduces. One will not go wrong in finding the center of it all in the announcement of the Epistle, “Sanctify a fast.” Its purpose and reasons are told right there: its wide application, and its goal, or objective. But while this age-old prophecy was made to fit into the ancient scheme of Lent, it puts an emphasis on the fast and on these days which is truly evangelical: “Turn ye even to me with all your heart”. “Rend your heart and not your garments.” The emphasis is where it must be if it is to be spiritually worth while: not on the externals, but on the heart of man.

The Gospel is our Lord’s rule for fasting and exhorts to the quest of the eternal treasure. One wonders how a work-righteousness could have been forced into these Lessons, which are so utterly revolutionary themselves in declaring a fast so contrary to the customary either in Joel’s times or in our Lord’s times. Then it was external by rule and rite; but here it is in heart and spirit, in secret, unseen save of the Father; for it is not of our merit but of His grace; not that we earn forgiveness not by works of righteousness which we have done”—but that to Him we may show the broken and contrite heart of one who really knows and worthily laments, and earnestly seeks forgiveness for his sin.

by Paul Zeller Strodach. from “The Church Year. Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels” Copyright 1924.


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