Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blessing of the Ashes (Ash Wednesday Liturgy) provides a complete service for Ash Wednesday, including the traditional litany and thanksgiving over the ashes. I have found it to be lacking in physical description of the ashes and in ritual regarding the creation of the ashes. My first Ash Wednesday, I found this litany and fell in love. It appears all over the internet, and most often cited as a work of Rex A. E Hunt.  

Ash Wednesday altar. Worshipers lit candles
in honor of their Lenten commitments.
As part of the ministry of all believers, I believe in keeping no part of our ritual life secret. The congregation should be invited into all aspects of worship, even what may seem to us to be the most practical. I use this litany after the UMC “Invitation to the Observance of Lenten Discipline” and prepare the ashes while speaking it. I have three small dishes made by a pottery artist. One has ash, another the water (which I collect from a local stream or lake) and the third is used to mix the two. this allows for me to add extra ash or water as needed for consistency. If it adds a moment of silence to make them right, so be it.  I have found people to enjoy being a part of the creation of the ashes that will grace their faces or hands.

This litany is eloquent and embodies what we are trying to communicate for this Lenten season: renewal, rebirth, transformation. The link to Rex’s page is at the end, please always attribute when using someone else’s work.  

Preparing the Ashes: 

Ash Wednesday invites us to come back to earth.
To wonder at the gift of life,
One of my favorite places to gather water for rituals.
Also a favorite place for my husband to fish. 
my life
our life
with the earth, the shared body of our existence.

These ashes were once trees and shrubs,
and places where life was lived to its fullest.
Once they were full of life.
Now they are black and grey.

But mixed with the water of our baptism
make good fertilizer:
it will help the seeds of the gospel take deeper root in us
and bring forth the fruits,
the harvest of justice, peace, and generosity.

These are ashes worth wearing.
For from the burnt ashes will spring the green shoot of life
and the purple flower of attentiveness to God.


We pray:
May these ashes be blessed in our wearing.
May they be for us a symbol of our return to the earth.

May we be blessed.
May we be earthed in everlasting love,
as forgiven and forgiving people.

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