Prayers, Readings and Photography for Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday


Remember human that you are dust, and to dust you will return.

– Genesis 3:19


Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. If we have not all three together, we have nothing.

—   Peter Chrysologus, 5th c.


Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation:
you make us hunger and thirst for holiness.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation:
you call us to true fasting:
to set free the oppressed,
to share our bread with the hungry,
to shelter the homeless and to clothe the naked.

—   Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers


AP India Ash Wednesday

Lord of the winds, I cry to thee.
I that am dust,
And blown about by every gust
I fly to thee.
Lord of the waters, unto thee I call.
I that am weed upon the waters borne,
And by the waters torn,
Tossed by the waters at thy feet I fall.

–   Mary Coleridge


Wash again and ever again this soiled world.
– Walt Whitman


You thumbed grit
into my furrowed brow,
marking me
with the sign of mortality,
the dust of last year’s palms.
the cross you traced
seared, smudged skin,
and I recalled
other ashes
into my heart
by those who loved too little
or not at all.

-Elizabeth Anne Vanek

Ash Wednesday

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

–   T.S. Eliot


Return to me says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you.
– Zechariah 1:3


Arise, Lord: Why are you sleeping? Arise: Do not make our exile final. How can you turn your face from us? How can you forget all our troubles? We are pressed down to the earth itself. Arise, Lord: Help us. Set us free.

– Monastic liturgy


Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth; you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism. Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes, and bless out journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth. May our fasting be hunger for justice; our alms a making of peace; our prayer the chant of humble and grateful hearts. All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus, for in his cross you proclaim your love for ever and ever.

– Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers


When the stomach is full it is easy to talk of fasting.

–Jerome, 4th c.

We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain


Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

– Matthew 6:16-18


Greg Miller’s photographs of Ash Wednesday here: Excuse Me, You Have Something On Your Forehead.