We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Photos and commentary, Ash Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024

(full size gallery)

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

We began our observation of Jesus’ death and resurrection by preparing for Easter with a season of penitence. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. We had 17 in attendance. Sally Hartman who did her vocational discernment at St. Peter’s and now is a Deacon was the preacher.

The church changes its look encouraging you to see things differently – purple on the altar, minimal flowers, pottery communion cup, a special red processional cross.

The liturgy provides words about the purpose of Lent. “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

It is all about reconnecting with God with by these specific activities and others of your choosing. Examine yourself to see what divides you from others, from the earth and from God, and repent from these divisive things. As the bulletin stated “only God can take away our sins, create clean hearts in us, renew a right spirit within us, and sustain us with God’s bountiful spirit.” The sermon enouraged us not to just give up but to take on new practices to do that and see other possibilities in the world.

The service started without music and opening readings and flowed into a collect and readings, followed by the sermon. Sally reminded us the joint scheduling of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. This last happened in 2018 and will occur next in 2019.

There is the “Invitation to the Observance of a Holy Lent”. It states that Lent’s purpose over the 40 days is for preparing new members through Holy Baptism and to restore those “had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.” In a sense it is for the restoration of the Body of Christ, uniting with the new and those who had fallen away.

The imposition of ashes follows the invitation. At this service, people receive ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross to remind us of our mortality, and complete dependence on God for our lives. Only through God’s saving grace can be we be in a relationship with God.

In the Bible, a mark on the forehead is a symbol of a person’s ownership. By having their foreheads marked with the sign of a cross, this symbolizes that the person belongs to Jesus Christ, who died on a Cross.

Finally there is the saying of Psalm 51 and the Litany of Penance. Pslam 51 is a general plea for purging, new creation and restoration – “Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ” “Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit”

The Litany is more specific and catalogs our sins:

“Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,””Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves.” “Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts.” “Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us.” Finally, there is a request to accept our repentence:

“Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty”

“Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”