Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, marked the beginning of the season of Lent. I participated in an ecumenical service last evening. I was designated to explain the meaning of the ashes and do the imposition of ashes on the clergy, as well as help administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It was a wonderful service held at the local Anglican church, with clergy representing the Anglican, Church of God, Lutheran, United, and Ukrainian Catholic churches.
In dialogue with the Ukrainian Catholic Priest prior to the service, I learned a couple of things that surprised me. First, they do not use ashes in their Ash Wednesday services—for them Lent actually begins on Monday two days prior to Ash Wednesday. Second, the colour for Lent in their tradition is not purple, but red, since the latter is regarded by them as a penitential colour.
Ashes in the Western churches are important, since they symbolize our mortality, as well as combined with sackcloth, were associated with repentance in biblical times.
We were blessed and privileged to hear God’s Word read and proclaimed and all baptised Christians were welcome to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
The Anglican priest lead us in the beautiful Ash Wednesday penitential liturgy and he, along with two other clergy—one Lutheran, one Anglican, a visible sign of our full communion—were co-presiders at the Lord’s Table. The Church of God pastor began with an opening introduction, highlighting God’s mercy, and sharing information on a Canadian Food Grains project which our community supports. The United Church minister led us in the offertory prayer. The Ukrainian Catholic priest offered the closing benediction.
It was a very moving and humbling experience to have been there and help with administering the sacrament. It was also a small sign of the unity of Christ’s Body expressed in the rich diversity of our respective denominations.
As the World Council of Churches emphasized years ago, “doctrine divides, service unites,” so in our community, we joined together contributing our offering to the Canadian Food Grains Bank in service of those in need.
We left the worship service in silence; recipients of God’s mercy and grace, and given new opportunities to share the love of Jesus in thought, word and deed with those in need in our community and around the globe.
Tagged: Ash Wednesday, Christian Unity, Ecumenism, Lent, Sacrament, Service, Word, Worship