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Notes on the Notes – March 1, 2017

IMGP1423*Ash Wednesday

Tonight’s Scripture Readings:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17


Tonight’s Music:

Psalm 51 (VU #776)

“God, I call to you for help,
In your mercy hear my prayer.”

The sung response to Psalm 51 uses a melody by Joseph Parry (1879).

Through lenghthening days” (Tune:  VU #136)

“Through lengthening days new shadows fall,
The sun returns, past truths recall;
Remember now that all around
God does provide, great gifts abound.

From palm leaves came the ashes shared,
A symbol of Christ’s pain and care.
Our foreheads marked for paths ahead,
Our lives renewed, by faith we’re led.

In silent prayer, give thanks, be still,
And let your souls with love be filled.
Now look ahead with clear intent,
And know for sure by Christ we’re sent.”

The words for this Ash Wednesday hymn were written by Bill Steadman of St. Andrew’s United Church in Sudbury, Ontario.  They will be sung to the melody ST. CROSS, more commonly known as the tune for the hymn “O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile” which was composed by John Bacchus Dykes (1861).  

*What is Ash Wednesday? 

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity.  It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter.  According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke,  Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ’s resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (six days) during six weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (four days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days.  In many communities the tradition of fasting was replaced by “giving up something for Lent.”

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the ceremonial practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants.   This practice serves to make us mindful that we are entering the season of Lent, generally a time of reflection and repentance.

Categories: Notes on the Notes