Lent is approaching soon, and the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday has always been very important in our preparation for Lent. We hope that this year, even with the situation of the pandemic, we will be able to carry out the ritual in a very significant and special way. This is the reality we can make the most of, rather than bemoaning the current situation.
One of the lessons we have learned in this pandemic is the importance of the family home – the domestic church. In a pastoral letter for all the faithful, Cardinal Vincent also suggests that this year we celebrate Ash Wednesday in our own homes, within our ‘support bubble’ [read the full letter here].
With this context, we would like to invite all our parishioners to mark this Ash Wednesday at home by:
– Preparing/obtaining some ash, dirt or soil
– Setting up a prayer space
– Celebrate the Ash Wednesday liturgy with your household
PREPARING/OBTAINING THE ASH
Traditionally, the ash used to mark our forehead is obtained by burning the blessed palms of last year’s Palm Sunday. This may be possible for some – if you have these palms in your house, you can burn them and collect the remaining ash. Otherwise, any ash (e.g. from fire wood), soil, or dirt is also perfectly acceptable. Essentially we are invited to remember our humble origins and where we are destined in the future. For this reason we say the words during the marking with the ash: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” The cremation ceremony after death is a stark reminder of this reality.
SETTING UP A PRAYER SPACE/’SHRINE’
It may be helpful to arrange some sort of prayer space/shrine in your home: a place to sit and pray ever for a few moments each day. This can be set up on a small side-table or even a chair (whatever is available in your house). You might want to cover it with a cloth – it can be purple or any colour you have in the house.
You can choose to add any of the following objects:
- A small bowl or any container with some dust/soil/ashes;
- A bowl of water – reminding us of our baptism;
- A cross/crucifix – reminding us of Christ’s journey to the cavalry;
- A candle – representing the light of Christ;
- A Bible – if you don’t have a bible, a copy of St Matthew’s Gospel which many of you received a couple of years ago would be fine;
- An image or statue of Our Lady or Rosary Beads
CELEBRATE THE ASH WEDNESDAY LITURGY AT HOME
A video guiding you through an Ash Wednesday service is available on our YouTube channel. We invite you to gather at your homes as a family/household/support bubble of which you are part, and to have this moment to mark the beginning of Lent together.
The video will be available throughout the day and can be accessed at a time which is most suitable for your household.
Alternatively, you can also [read these guidelines] and simply follow the steps.
Traditionally, many of us make Lenten resolutions. This can take different forms:
- Fasting – we may decide to do some penance or fasting, like giving up some favourite food or drink.
- Works of charity – it could be caring for a neighbour, making a phone call or supporting a friend or family member, making a donation, helping out more around the house, etc
- Prayer – making time for God to grow in our faith (do join at least one of the events below!)
The immediate preparation on Ash Wednesday is to prepare for the six weeks of Lent, but the remote preparation is our journey into eternity through death. We know death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life with the Risen Lord in heaven. So let us begin this Lent in the hope of entering into Easter with joy!