Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church

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Rector's Corner

Ash Wednesday – With No Ashes

  • The Rev. Dr. Bill Murray
  • Feb 10, 2021
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As we approach Ash Wednesday, we reach yet another sacred day in the church that involves physical contact and deep connection. Once again, we realize that to keep our community safe, we must abstain. Bishop Neil Alexander wrote a lengthy article on the practice of using ashes in January.

He rightly notes two things.

First, the prayer book only notes “If ashes are to be imposed” (BCP 265) in the service. In other words, while we all think of smeared crosses on our foreheads, the invitation to a holy and penitential Lent is the greater work of Ash Wednesday. Second, ashes only began to be used about 1,000 years ago. On top of that, ashes were sprinkled on the head. The connection was meant to recall the casting of dirt on our mortal remains at their burial. With that in mind, the words of imposition make sense “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We will have an Ash Wednesday service at noon. We will not use ashes. We will also have a drive-through at church from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. We will pray with anyone coming through the line as we begin this penitential season. The purpose of both services is to invite us into the season of Lent. We are invited to focus again on God, knowing that our time is always limited.

We are called to reset our lives and to right relationship with God and others. We are reminded that we are dust, and yet, even at the grave, we make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”