Ash Wednesday Penitential Service


The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit:
a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.
Lord, have mercy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognise that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating upon God’s holy word.

Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully.

Please sit or kneel


Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made,
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we may be truly sorry for our sins and obtain from you,
the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Please stand
PSALM 51: 1-18
Have mercy on me O God in your great goodness;
according to the abundance of your compassion blot out my offences.
Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight
so that you are justified in your sentence
and righteous in your judgement.
I have been wicked even from my birth
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Behold you desire truth deep within me
and shall make me understand wisdom in the depths of my heart.
Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean;
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the bones you have broken may rejoice.
Turn your face from my sins
and blot out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy spirit from me.
Give me again the joy of your salvation
and sustain me with your gracious spirit.
Then shall I teach your ways to the wicked
and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from my guilt O God, the God of my salvation,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness.
O Lord open my lips
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
for you desire no sacrifice else I would give it;
you take no delight in burnt offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart O God you will not despise.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen.

A reading from the Gospel according to St Matthew,
chapter 6, beginning at verse 1
Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others 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. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Please sit or kneel
Let us now call to mind our sin and the infinite mercy of God.


Hear these commandments which God has given to his people, and take them to heart:

  1. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods but me.
    We shall love the Lord our God with all our heart,
    with all our soul,
    with all our mind,
    and with all our strength.
  2. You shall not make for yourself any idol.
    God is Spirit,
    and we who worship him
    must worship him in spirit and in truth.
  3. You shall not dishonour the name of the Lord your God.
    We shall worship him with reverence and awe.
  4. Remember the Lord’s day, and keep it holy.
    Christ is risen from the dead:
    We will set our minds on things that are above,
    not on things that are on the earth.
  5. Honour your father and your mother.
    We will live as servants of God,
    honouring all people,
    and loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  6. You shall not commit murder.
    We will be reconciled to our brothers and sisters,
    overcoming evil with good.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
    We remember that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
  8. You shall not steal.
    We will be honest in all that we do,
    and care for those in need.
  9. You shall not be a false witness.
    We will speak the truth.
  10. You shall not covet anything which belongs to your neighbour.
    We remember the words of our Lord Jesus:
    It is more blessed to give than to receive.

God the Father, creator of heaven and earth,
have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, giver of life,
have mercy on us.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy on us.

Saviour of the world, forgive us our sins, known and unknown, things done, and left undone; grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit that we may amend our lives according to your holy word, and share with all your people the joys of your eternal kingdom.

Jesus, Lamb of God,
have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins,
have mercy on us.
Jesus, Redeemer of the world,
give us your peace.

Make our hearts clean, O God,
and renew a right spirit within us.

Father eternal, giver of light and grace,
we have sinned against you and against our neighbour,
in what we have thought, in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love, and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed, and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
forgive us all that is past, and lead us out from darkness
to walk as children of light. Amen.

Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent,
have mercy on you,
pardon and deliver you from all your sins,
confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,
and keep you in eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gracious God and Father, you have given your Son for us all, that his death might be our life, and his affliction our peace.

We pray for all who suffer—the sick, the hungry, the refugees, the prisoners, and the persecuted—that they may be comforted.
Lord, hear our prayer
and let our cry come unto you.

We pray for those who bring sin and suffering to others, that they may see and turn from the error of their ways.
Lord, hear our prayer
and let our cry come unto you.

We pray for all who seek to bring care and relief to those who suffer, that they would be strengthened and encouraged.
Lord, hear our prayer
and let our cry come unto you.

Gracious God and Father, we give you thanks for the cross of Christ at the heart of creation, for the presence of Christ in our weakness and strength, for the grace of Christ to transform our suffering. We give you thanks for all ministries of healing, for all agencies of relief, and for all that sets us free from pain, fear and distress.

We give you thanks for the assurance that your mercy knows no limit, and for the privilege of sharing Christ’s ministry in prayer.

In darkness and in light, in trouble and in joy, help us to trust in your love, to serve your purpose, and to praise your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As our Saviour Christ has taught us, we are bold to say:
Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with our whole heart; that so desiring, we may seek and find you; and so finding, may love you; and so loving, may hate those sins from which you have delivered us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Christ give you the grace to grow in holiness, to deny yourselves, and to take up your cross and follow him: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with you, and remain with you always. Amen.

In this season of Lent, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.