Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

Archbishop B. O’Brien


The symbol that dominates our celebration today is, of course, the distribution of ashes.  Ashes, as we know, are a by-product when something is burned.  They are the leftovers after fire passes over or through something.  After the heat and light are gone, ashes are what remain.  But ashes are not only what is left; for Christians, they represent a powerful symbol which is central to our liturgy today as we begin the season of Lent.


The Book of Genesis paints a picture of the first human being formed out of the dust of the earth into which God breathed life.  This a powerful image that reminds us that, without the breath or Spirit of God moving in us, we are like ashes – lifeless, inert.  Ashes are a reminder of who we are and to what we would return without Christ’s victory over sin and death.


Right now, as we watch the Olympic games on television, we are seeing great performances by the athletes, and we marvel at their skill and grace.  But behind their success, whether it’s a skater or a skier or whatever, there are years of training and practice.  In the Gospel today, we see that Jesus presents his own training program for us.  It really is very simple and involves just three things: give something to others, pray, and fast.  But then he adds something else:  he says that you have to perform these exercises in a certain way or you won’t get the benefit of them.  You have to do them sincerely, not to impress other people.  When you do them sincerely, they will help to make you into a better follower of Jesus, just like the training program of an athlete makes him or her a stronger contender.


There is nothing to suggest that this is a self-help approach to salvation.  We don’t save ourselves by these works.  What prayer, fasting, and almsgiving do is to prepare us – open us up – to receive all that God wants to give us: his forgiveness, his peace, and maybe even a challenge or two.


Lent is not only about what we do; first and foremost, it is about what God wants to do for us.  It is time of year when Christ, through the means of the Church, reconciles, pardons, anoints, and instructs those who are preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist at Easter.


The opening prayer of today’s liturgy asks for the grace we need to live these special days of Lent that lie ahead.  May we pray during today’s liturgy that our reception of the ashes today will encourage us to experience the Lenten period as a special time of God’s grace responding to the particular needs that each of us has.


The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.