On Ash Wednesday, Episcopalians attend a service where they receive ashes on their forehead. The ashes are in the shape of a cross. In many cases, the ashes are made by burning the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. The minister who administers them says the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” (or a similar phrase).
The act of receiving ashes is meant to symbolize the mortality of human life and the need for repentance. Episcopalians may also fast or give up certain luxuries or habits during Lent. This is a symbolic way to reflect on their relationship with God and prepare for Easter.
The Ash Wednesday service in the Church of the Apostles follows the following format:
- Gathering and Penitential Rite: The service may begin with a hymn or other music, followed by a penitential rite. This may include a prayer of confession and a reading from Scripture emphasizing the need for repentance.
- Scripture Readings and Sermon: The service may include several Scripture readings, including a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a Gospel reading. The sermon will focus on the themes of repentance, mortality, and renewal that are central to Ash Wednesday.
- Imposition of Ashes: After the sermon, the minister will bless the ashes and invite the congregation to come forward to receive them. The minister will make the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead with the ashes while saying the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”
- Prayers of the People and Communion: The service may include intercessory prayers and prayers of thanksgiving, followed by the celebration of Holy Communion that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus Crist and his ultimate triumph over sin and death.
- Dismissal: The service may end with a blessing and dismissal.
Overall, the Ash Wednesday service at the Church of the Apostles is a solemn and reflective service that sets the tone for the season of Lent. It invites Episcopalians to contemplate their mortality, confess their sins, and renew their commitment to following Jesus Christ.