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Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent

A plate of Ash in a church setting

… And so Ash Wednesday is here again, the first day heralding the start of Lent, the beginning of something new, eh!? I guess it all depends on how we live our lives. Where some people see a half-empty glass, others may see it as full. Is your glass half empty or half full?

If the former, we can choose to look at the world from a different perspective, a half-full perspective or … Is Lent an opportunity to reflect on what is going on in our lives, is it a non-event, or is it yet another occasion to feel guilt-ridden?

The Dalai Lama has often reminded us that every day, we are invited to think about wakening up, "I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it."

It could be a matter of choice. So, on this first day of Lent, let’s be grateful for this new day, new season, and new opportunity, as "gratitude is the recognition of all that holds us in the web of life". (Dalai Lama).

Meanwhile, happy Lent and more to follow!

Sister Bernie

Mildmay’s Chaplain

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

God of the dust we were before,

God of the dust we will become, God of the breath

that has brought this dust to life: each day contains a miracle bounded by our mortality.

In this season, we mark ourselves as creatures dependent on you, drawn up from a shared earth, and separated from each other only by a desire to be more than we are.

May we, who will return to the earth, use these days to draw closer to you and to all those who share this earth, this breath, this animating love that can bring even ash to life. Amen.

Yellow daffodils - heralding the Spring season

Ash Wednesday

Pattern of the cross made in ash

Ash Wednesday is a holy day of prayer and fasting in many Western Christian denominations. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent (the six weeks of penitence before Easter).

As it is the first day of Lent, many Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and making a Lenten sacrifice that they will not partake of until the arrival of Eastertide.

Many Christians attend special church services, where churchgoers receive ash on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday derives its name from this practice, accompanied by the words, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return." The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from last year's Palm Sunday celebrations.


Graphic of the words Lent: fast, pray, give

In 2023 Lent begins on Wednesday, 22 February. The Lent dates for 2023 are 22 February – 6 April.

For many Christians, Lent is a time when they make space to pray, read the Bible and reflect on God’s love. Some Christians from more orthodox or traditional denominations fast during Lent. They begin with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday and give up meat, fish, eggs and more for the 40-day period. Others give up comforts or luxuries such as chocolate, junk food, social media or television.

When the Lent period ends depends on how you count the 40 days, as eastern and western churches observe Lent slightly differently. In western churches, Sundays are excluded meaning Lent ends on Holy Saturday. Eastern churches include Lent Sundays, meaning it ends on Palm Sunday, the Friday before Easter. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week.


top image credit: PxHere



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