Daniel Justin and the Cathedral choir led an entrance hymn from the gallery as Bishop Peter followed a procession into the Cathedral. He then prayed an opening collect, exhorting those present to “take up battle against spiritual evils…armed with weapons of self-restraint”.
In his homily the Bishop said that the reception of the ashes “marks our willingness to subject our pride to eradication”. Bearing the ashes was no contradiction of the Lord’s instruction not to trumpet our good deeds, because it was not born of pride.
Ash Wednesday, he said, bound the hidden realm with the public realm: “The integrity of faith that is forged within the hidden realm must be made manifest through the evangelisation of the public realm.” Now was the favourable time, he said, the day of salvation.
The denial of sin in the secular world, proposed the Bishop, was the great deception. It promised nothing but a false liberation. In contrast, Ash Wednesday was when we “consciously, willingly, wholeheartedly confront the temptations to pride”.
Bishop Peter described prayer, fasting and almsgiving as our instruments or tools and said that the Father would see all that was done in secret and would punish all iniquity and reward all virtue. And yet the Redeemer reminded us that “the Father is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and ready to repent”.
“With the courage and trust of faith,” he concluded, “we prepare ourselves to bear the mark which reminds us of our sinfulness, we prepare to accept the inscription which proclaims the triumph of grace”.
Then, taking the ashes which were made from last year’s palm branches, Bishop Peter silently sprinkled them with holy water. Fr Alan Hodgson, the Dean of St John’s, and Fr Michael Smith joined him in making the sign of the cross with the ashes on the foreheads of those in the congregation.
Pictured above is Bishop Peter Collins receiving the ashes from Fr Alan Hodgson. You can see a gallery of the Ash Wednesday Mass by clicking on the link or the picture below.