A Ritual for Preparing Holy Ashes
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter: we confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God within the community of faith.
Gracious God, out of your love and mercy
you breathed into dust the breath of life,
creating us to serve you and neighbors.
Call forth our prayers and acts of tenderness,
and strengthen us to face our mortality,
that we may reach with confidence for your mercy;
in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
A Time of Self Examination:
A Prayer of Centering for the Lenten Season
The Lenten season begins.
It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on
your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.
I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that
speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence.
Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.
I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me.
The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life.
I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions.
There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.
Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place.
Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes,
I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.
An excerpt from “The Road to Daybreak” by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Recipe for Holy Ashes for Ash Wednesday
Tip#1: Storing of Palms: Do NOT STORE in garbage bags because they will mildew.
Tip#2: If your ashes turn out gray, you can add burnt newspaper to them to make them black.
I. BURNING PROCESS:
Materials for Step One...
1. Large (16 inch) Terra-cotta Pot and pot stand.
2. Last Years Palms from Palm Sunday (or any palms you can find)
3. Wooden Stirring Stick
6. Some of last year’s ashes
Step 1: Take last year’s palms from Palm Sunday (or any palms you can find). A celebration from last year becomes a means of mourning for this year! Palm Sunday celebration always leads to the cross. Light Palms with lighter and let burn.
Step 2: Watch- and feed all the Palms a few at a time, looking for black...don’t let Smolder and let it all become gray. When ashes are burned, use a little bit of water (do not use a bunch) simply pour on smoldering areas.
Step3: Let cool overnight. Completely cool. OR you can move forward to next step by carefully removing ashes from the pot and place them in a 10” x 16” cake pan.
II. MIXING & BLENDING OF THE ASHES
2 Cake pans
Step 1: With yours hands, crush all of the stems. They should crumble easily.
* Note: Bury your hand in the ashes, you will feel that the ashes are damp and cool. If you do not damp and cool ashes, add a small amount of water. Mix thoroughly.
Step 2: Sift ashes from one container to another. After the first sifting process, pour stems into a small terra-cotta dish and continue to crush with hands. (You only crush remaining stems after the 1st shifting).
If you have any remaining stems that you do not wish to use, deposit them outside and return them to the earth.
Step 3: Drizzle a small amount of olive oil around the pan, then mix which your hands. Note: mix until it begins to have small beads in it.
Step 4: Add some additional ashes from previous year. Mix ashes together. You might need to add some more oil here. Again, you are looking for small beads.
Step 5: Repeat sifting of all ashes 2-3 times.
Step 1: Place ashes in a Paten and make a Well in the side. Place a small amount of olive oil and use it to make a slurry to get the correct consistency for imposition. Note: start with just a little bit and work it from the side.
Thanksgiving Over the Ashes
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, so that we may remember that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Will you wear these ashes in a way that you remember them —
in a way that you remember humility,
in a way that you remember to be poured out, to empty yourselves,
in a way that you remember our lives are broken to be given?
(People come forward to receive the ashes….)
Imposition of Ashes
From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.
Repent and Believe the Gospel. Amen.
*Prayer of Confession
Save us , O God, From the blindness
which is not even aware that it is sinning;
From the pride,
which cannot admit it is wrong.
From the self-will
which can see nothing but its own way.
From the self righteousness,
which can see no flaw within itself;
From the callousness,
which has sinned so often that it has ceased to care;
From the defiance,
which is not even sorry for its sins;
From the evasion,
which always puts the blame on someone or something else;
From the heart so hardened,
that it cannot repent.
Give us at all times
Eyes which are open to our faults;
A conscience which is sensitive and quick to warn;
A heart that cannot sin in peace but is moved to regret and remorse.
Grant that being truly penitent we may be truly forgiven, so that we may find that your love is great enough to cover all our sin, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*Prayer of Silent Confession
Leader: In Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
People: In Jesus Christ, we all have peace
*Let Us Sing Hymn No. 340 “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy”
May God, who has forgiven us now make us strong for these days ahead. May Jesus lead us, and may we be found faithful to follow. May the Spirit drive us into the wilderness, burning away the chaff of our lives and purifying our hearts for all to see and be blessed. And may the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with us and remain with us always. Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve God and neighbor.
Thanks be to God!