Gracious and merciful God,
you look with love upon a sinful people and desire only their return to you.
We beg of you the grace to live this holy season, to persevere in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By the discipline of Lent
purify our hearts of all pretension, bring us back to you,
and make the whole Church ready to celebrate the mysteries of Easter.
Grant this through Christ, our liberator from sin,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
Alternate Opening Prayer for Ash Wednesday taken from the 1998 ICEL Roman Missal
Repent, and believe in the Gospel - Once again joining with Christians throughout the world those words of admonition will be soon be spoken over us as the simple sign of our mortality - the Lenten Ashes - will be placed on our forehead.
Our lenten journey begins with its call to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Of its very nature this day seems to bring with it a certain solemnity and seriousness. Yesterday, I received an email from a dear friend who does not share our faith tradition. The message read, “Msgr. Art - have a Happy Ash Wednesday” - it was followed by a question - is it alright for me to say that? Instinctively we feel that somehow the human emotion of happiness should be far from our minds on a day like today.
Certainly, our Scriptures today underscore somber themes, of “weeping and mourning” and “rending hearts and not garments”. We are called to moral self examination, to lift the veil of denial that often keeps us from seeing our sins and moral compromises.
Yet, at the core of all sinfulness is the all too human tendency of forgetfulness. Forgetting the singular relationship that gives all others their deepest meaning - the relationship with the Lord of creation who has loved us into existence and whose Son has sealed that love in His reconciling Death and Resurrection.
And so, my sisters and brothers, at the heart of this Lenten journey and every Lenten Season, the Lord is calling us to grateful remembrance. The ancient disciplines of prayer, fasting and sharing our goods with the poor - are to be daily reminders that we, in the words of St. Paul, are to become “Ambassadors for Christ” - “the very holiness of God.” This season is a powerful reminder to us of the dignity that is ours in being called brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of the Father - A dignity that should fill our hearts with joy and happiness even in the midst penance and self denial. And so, let our Lenten Journey begin and may it be a happy one for each of us!
Allegri's Miserere Mei