Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.
1. Catholic Ash Wednesday comes from Genesis 3:19–that moment when God expelled Adam and Eve from the paradise of Eden as the price of their rebellion and lack of faith: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” God is telling them, “Think about what you did. Repent. Seek Me out. For you have replaced My love with your selfishness; you have replaced My grace with your sin; you have replaced My gift of immortality with death, which means that some day, you must surrender your body to sickness and corruption, and the grave will claim you as you become ashes once again.”
Catholic Ash Wednesday is a preparation of 40 days for renewing our baptismal commitment to Jesus, at Easter. The ashes are a sign of repentance and turning back to the Gospel, because death will come, and after death, we will be judged before the throne of Jesus Christ, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But of course, we will joyously remember at Easter that the precious Blood of Jesus has regained “paradise lost.” The death brought down upon us by the first Adam is reversed by the second Adam. For as St. Paul reminds us in the same verse of 6:23: “But (by) the grace of God, (we have) life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord!”
For me, personally, Ash Wednesday and Lent are an annual reminder that I do not have control. The Lord God is in control. I, however, sometimes live with the illusion that I can control my life, my health, my friends, my mental state, my financial situation, my sense of peace and comfort. I can try to control these things, but sometimes all my efforts end in “ashes.” In the end, “vanity of vanities, and all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Lent is my time to throw my earthly sense of power and control into the “bonfire of vanities” which is penance and sacrifice. If I rise and have victory, it is only in the Blood of Jesus and His Calvary–“Through Him, with Him, and in Him.”
Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy. Christ hear us. R. Christ, hear us. Christ graciously hear us. R. Christ, graciously hear us. God the Father of Heaven, R. Have mercy on us. God the Son, Redeemer of the world, R. Have mercy on us. God the Holy Spirit R. Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, one God, R. Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Priest and Victim, R. Have mercy on us. Jesus, Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, etc. Jesus, Priest Whom God sent to evangelise the poor, Jesus, Priest Who at the Last Supper instituted the everlasting Sacrifice, Jesus, Priest always living to intercede for us, Jesus, High Priest anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit and with power, Jesus, High Priest taken from among men, Jesus, High Priest appointed on behalf of men, Jesus, High Priest of our confession of faith, Jesus, High Priest of a greater glory than Moses, Jesus, High Priest of the true Tabernacle, Jesus, High Priest of the good things to come, Jesus, High Priest, holy, innocent and undefiled, Jesus, High Priest, faithful and merciful, Jesus, High Priest of God and on fire with zeal for souls, Jesus, High Priest, perfect forever, Jesus, High Priest, Who passed through the Heavens with Thy own Blood, Jesus, High Priest, Who gave eternal life for us, Jesus, High Priest, Who loved us and washed us from our sins in Thy Blood, Jesus, High Priest, Thou hast offered Thyself as an oblation and victim to God, Jesus, Victim of God and of men, Jesus, Victim, holy and immaculate, Jesus, appeasing Victim, Jesus, peace-making Victim, Jesus, Victim of propitiation and of praise, . Jesus, Victim of reconciliation and of peace, Jesus, Victim in Whom we have confidence and access to God, . Jesus, Victim living forever and ever,
Be merciful! R. Spare us, O Jesus. Be merciful! R. Graciously hear us, O Jesus.
By Thine eternal priesthood, R. deliver us, O Jesus. By Thy holy anointing,Thou wert constituted Priest by God the Father, R. deliver us, O Jesus. By Thy priestly spirit, etc. By Thy ministry, Thou hast glorified Thy Father upon earth, By Thy bloody immolation of Thineself made once upon the Cross, By Thy same Sacrifice renewed daily upon the altar, By Thy Divine power, which Thou dost invisibly exercises in Thy priests,
Graciously preserve the entire priestly order in holiness of life, R. We beseech you, hear us. Graciously provide for Thy people pastors after Thine own heart, etc. Graciously fill them with the spirit of Thy priesthood, Graciously grant that the lips of priests may hold knowledge, Graciously send faithful laborers into Thy harvest, Graciously multiply faithful stewards of Thy mysteries, Graciously grant them persevering service in accordance with Thy will, Graciously grant them meekness in the ministry, skill in action and constancy, in prayer, Graciously promote through them everywhere the worship of the Blessed Sacrament Graciously receive into Thy joy those who have served Thee well,
Lamb of God, Thou takest away the sins of the world, R. Spare us, O Lord. Lamb of God, Thou takest away the sins of the world, R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. Lamb of God, Thou takest away the sins of the world, R. Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Jesus our Priest, R. Hear us. Jesus our Priest, R. Graciously hear us.
Let us pray.
O God, sanctifier and guardian of Thy Church, raise up in her by Thy Spirit worthy and faithful stewards of the sacred mysteries, that by their ministry and example, the Christian people may be directed along the way of salvation under Thy protection. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.