There is an assumption in the Book of Common Prayer and in other more modern liturgies that the Christian who attends church for worship has made some preparation for the event. Some formal preparation takes place in vestries before the service, of course, and the public recitation by the priest of the Lord’s Prayer and the Collect for Purity at the start of the Holy Communion (1662 Order) is a remnant of the earlier mediaeval rite ‘at the foot of the altar’, but there is still an expectation that the worshipper will be ready for worship through self-examination and prayer. The self-discipline which has sustained generations of Christians is still valid and necessary today if our worship is to rise above the trivial and banal.
That which takes place the day before a service of worship is not without significance. The consumption of large quantities of alcohol and lack of sleep are hardly conducive to an appreciation of or a full participation in the Mass or the Divine Office, although we all appreciate that the latter is sometimes outside our control. Our bodies and minds are important and are the vehicle for our worshipping selves. We are embodied souls and need to prepare ourselves physically and mentally as well as spiritually.
Time spent reading the Scriptures at some point before the service is time well spent, especially if the texts for the service are to hand. That way the readings are already in our minds and we will be much more prepared to hear God speaking to us in the context of worship than if we were to come to the readings afresh. It also leads to more effective preaching as the preacher can assume some prior knowledge of the texts.
Preparation of this kind is an essential antidote to the modern church disease of entertainment which afflicts congregations in very subtle ways. It is easy to expect “the sort of worship I like” and to come to be entertained by it, rather than to worship God through it. At least a careful preparation using the readings for the day should enable us to expect a meeting with God at the service, whether the different aspects of the worship suit our tastes or not. After all, a meeting with the Divine is what worship is all about.
As Ash Wednesday approaches the faithful would also be wise to set some time aside for an examination of conscience. If we are to do this effectively, silence will be essential. Silence means the absence of intrusive sounds which blanket our souls and shield us from reality. It is difficult to achieve. Sometimes it is too frightening because in the silence we can come face to face with ourselves and we are obliged to accept ourselves for the people we are to a greater extent than when we are surrounded by diversions. Sometimes silence is frightening because we begin to hear “the still, small voice” of the Lord calling and we want to block out his awesome holiness and his righteous demands. Above all silence demands honesty. It is not an opportunity to dream or gloss over our sins and problems.
We should never be put off by that which is difficult. Silence for prayer, reflection and reading is an essential part of our preparation for meeting God and of our relationship of prayer with him. Let Ash Wednesday this year be your new beginning and may it bear much fruit.
From the diary
Sunday 28th January, Feast of the Anniversary of Consecration
Wednesday 31st January, 10.00am Mass
Friday 2nd February, 7.00pm Mass (Presentation of Our Lord)
Sunday 4th February, Sexagesima / 2 before Lent
Wednesday 7th February, 10.00am Mass
Friday 9th February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 11th February, Quinquagesima / Sunday next before Lent
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am
Ash Wednesday, 14th February
Mass with imposition of ashes, 10.00am
Mass with hymns and imposition of ashes, 8.00pm
Friday 16th February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 18th February, Lent 1
Wednesday 21st February, 10.00am Mass
Thursday 22nd February, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 23rd February, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 25th February, Lent 2
Wednesday 28th February, 10.00am Mass
Thursday 29th February, 8.00pm Stations of the Cross
Friday 1st March, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 3rd March, Lent 3
Sermons for Lent
On each of the Common Worship Sundays in Lent there will be a sermon based on the Gospel and following the theme, ‘Jesus and the Father’.
- 18th February (Lent 1), Mark 1: 9-15 ‘You are my Son, whom I love.’
- 3rd March (Lent 3), John 2: 13-22 ‘How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market.’
- 17th March (Lent 5), John 12: 20-33 ‘Father, save me from this hour’.
Please return last year’s palm crosses by Sunday 4th February so that they can be burnt before Ash Wednesday.
Additional Curates Society Lent Boxes
ACS works to support the provision of priests in ‘poor and populous parishes’ especially those in which the incumbent only receives a half-stipend (or no stipend at all). If you wish to have a collecting box for the work of ACS these will be available by Ash Wednesday at the back of church or from Fr. Andrew. Your support is very much appreciated.
Lent Study Booklets
The Additional Curates Society has produced a study booklet for Lent entitled, ‘Promises’ written by Joan Whyman. Copies cost £3.50 and can be ordered from Father Andrew.