Ash Wednesday & Lent
ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICES
7.00am – Bishop Murray Harvey
10.00am – Canon Camellia Flanagan
6.00pm – Dean Greg Jenks
In the Western tradition of Christianity, the period of 40 days prior to Easter is observed as a special time for reflection and spiritual discipline in preparation for Easter. Similar traditions are observed in Eastern Christianity, but the dates vary due to the differences in our calendars and the local traditions also vary with respect to what dietary and recreational constraints are observed.
While we traditionally speak of the '40 days' of Lent, Ash Wednesday is actually 46 days before Easter Day since the Sundays that occur during Lent are not days of fasting. Sundays are always little Easters—celebrations of the Resurrection—and not properly observed with fasting or other acts of penitence.
The Cathedral community invites you to use this special time to reflect on your own spiritual practice in whatever way you find most appropriate.
You are welcome to participate in any of our Lenten liturgies, whether you are an Anglican, a Christian from another tradition, a person from another faith community, or simply someone seeking a deeper personal spirituality. Our doors are open, as are our hearts and our minds.
ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICES IN THE CATHEDRAL
These are liturgies with a very simple tone, and all include the blessing and imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the participants.
In the ancient world, pouring ashes over one's head—rather than using olive oil to make the skin glow with health and happiness—was a sign of distress. People would wear clothing made from sackcloth and put ashes on their face to mourn the death of a family member or close friend, as well as during times of natural disasters and national calamities.
The ash smudge on our forehead is a visible reminder to us and to those we meet during the day that we are wanting to deepen our spiritual practice this Lent.
SERVICES DURING LENT
Services during Lent have a special tone as we reduce the celebratory aspects of the liturgy during Lent. As we get closer to Holy Week, this sombre tone will become more pronounced, but it is noticeable from the very first day of Lent.
There is a subtle spiritual 'balancing act' at play in all this, as we do not want to reinforce any idea that we are unworthy individuals who do not already enjoy the blessings that God offers everyone.
Rather than think of Lent as a disciplinary period, we might think of it as a time for a spiritual workout as we seek to improve our personal and collective practice as people of faith.
At the heart of Lent is the invitation to fast, pray and give.
Fasting, or embracing
If we seek better physical fitness we do something extra, while maybe also cutting back on some unhealthy habits. Our spiritual discipline can be much the same. There may be some bad habits we need to give up. These are more likely to be negative attitudes than chocolate or alcohol. Let go of fear and embrace love. Reinforce those personal habits that make you a more loving person and cut back on the habits that make you a mean spirited person.
Pray, or mindfulness
Prayer is a time to pay attention to life and to the quiet presence of God at the very heart of the universe. Set yourself some goals for praying. It may be time alone to reflect and be mindful of your situation. It might mean a visit to the Cathedral during the week to light a candle for someone you care about. It may be a good time to resume a personal habit of attending Sunday worship, our group spiritual fitness workout session. Just do it ... (as the saying goes)
Give, or engagement
The third attribute of a balanced Lent program is that we give to some project beyond our personal life. For most people that means a financial contribution to some worthwhile project, but for some people it may mean getting involved to help make something good happen in our local community. As we give away money or time to help someone else we are engaging in God's own work to make the world a better place. We are becoming part of the answer to our own prayer: 'your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven ...'