By way of introduction, the Cathedral comments: “Many of us have given up seeing loved ones during the past year, to keep them safe during the pandemic. This Lent, perhaps, is an opportunity of giving thanks, rather than ‘giving up’. The Lord is always waiting for you in his Holy House; he is always waiting for you to come back to him.”
Speaking at the cathedral Mass for Ash Wednesday, Canon David Paul said: “This year the traditional, long-standing custom of making the cross on our foreheads with the blessed ash is forbidden. Instead, the priest will just sprinkle ashes on our heads.
“But Ash Wednesday is still about preparing for a new life at Easter. It’s about a new beginning, about leaving old sins, old wrongs and old hurts behind us to look to the light which is Jesus.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has proposed an alternative way of celebrating Ash Wednesday this year.
“My suggestion is this,” he writes. “Celebrate Ash Wednesday at home, with your family, in the household or ‘support bubble’ of which you are a part. Gather for a while. Read the prayer which I offer. Bless each other by making the sign of the cross on each other’s forehead. Spend some time praying in a way that you know.”
The Lenten prayer he proposes is:
With all our hearts we beseech you: have mercy on your people; spare your people;
strengthen all people in the struggle against the havoc of this pandemic.
Lord our God, without you we are so weak and our courage so limited.
Give us your strength; give us your love; give us wisdom and skill to continue this fight.
Spare your people, O Lord we pray.
Comfort those who mourn and gather into your kingdom all who have died.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, who died and rose to life,
who lives and reigns with you, for ever and ever.
“Then,” writes the Cardinal, “bless each other, using one of the two traditional formulas:
‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’
“We do well to remember together our need of the good Lord. Together, and through each other, he wants to comfort and reassure us of his loving presence. If, on this day, we set aside every pretence that we can do everything of ourselves, then we create in our hearts and lives the space for God’s grace and strength to find a home in us.”
Pictured above is Bishop Alan distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday 2020