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What is Ash Wednesday and why do we celebrate it? Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent.

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance leading up to Easter. It is a season for preparation, for reflecting, for praying and remembering. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, we imitate Jesus forty days of temptation by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). On Ash Wednesday, Christians gather in repentance and confession to begin the 40 day season of Lent. Often, a leader will mark a sign of the cross in ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our need for God, for our need of confession and forgiveness. (From the time of the Old Testament, ashes were used to mark a time of mourning. Many churches burn the palms from the previous years Palm Sunday to make the ashes.) We are marked by ashes to remind us that we are not God, we are humans that have come from the earth and will return to the earth. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, which begins our journey to Easter. While it is tempting to rush ahead to the excitement of the Resurrection, Lent teaches us to slow down, to pay attention, to look for signs of new life peeking through in dark places. Questions/Thoughts for Discussion: What are some things that prevent us from slowing down and not paying attention? Why is it hard to repent or say were sorry? What are ways that we can pay attention to God during this season of Lent?

Lectionary Readings (to be read aloud, if desired). Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

For some ideas and activities of Lenten practices at home, see: Preparing for Lent (with flour instead of ashes) Share a prayer at Lent Make an Easter Garden

*If you are interested in the imposition of the ashes with your family, we will be using the following liturgy at our service. If not, you can skip this section and read the prayer below.

The Ashes (Celebrant): Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lords 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 selfexamination 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: Grant that these ashes 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. The ashes are imposed with the following words Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

A Blessing For Lent Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth; you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism. Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes, and bless our journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth. May our fasting be hunger for justice; our alms, a making of peace; our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts. All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus. For in his cross you proclaim your love for ever and ever. Amen Adapted from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers