The formula that came to be associated with the distribution of ashes: “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return,” focuses on our mortality, as an incentive to take seriously the call to repentance. Our time here is brief.

Since Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, it also has a baptismal focus. One hint of this is in the second formula that is offered for the imposition of ashes: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Though it doesn’t explicitly mention Baptism, it recalls our baptismal promises to reject sin and profess our faith. At the beginning of Lent, the Church calls us on Ash Wednesday to the conversion journey that marks the season. Like the catechumens entering the final stage of their preparation for the Easter sacraments, we are all called to walk with them so that we will be prepared to renew our baptismal promises when Easter arrives.

This pilgrimage of conversion has been seen in different lights in the various epochs of the history of the Church, and we would like to focus now on how the Eastern Churches see this opportunity of turning to Christ in Lent, accompanied by His Blessed Mother Mary.

We use for the text of our meditation a selection from the Lenten Triodion, the prayer book of the Orthodox Church that provides the texts for the divine services for the pre-Lenten weeks of preparation, Great Lent, and Holy Week. It is called the Triodion because the canons appointed for Matins during this period are composed of three odes each. May it help us to live out this Lenten season worthily.


Let us acquire compunction of soul as God-given first-fruits of the fast.

Let us cry: accept our prayer as pure incense, O Christ our master.

Deliver us, we entreat you, from the stench of corruption

And from fearful torment.

For you alone are ready to forgive!

Grant us your mercy, Theotokos, Fount of tender compassion.

Look upon the people who have sinned, and manifest, as always, your power.

For trusting in you, we cry out as once did Gabriel, chief of the bodiless hosts:

Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!

Let us begin the all-holy season of fasting with joy;

Let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God:

With the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer,

The strength of good courage and the purity of holiness!

So, clothed in garments of light,

Let us hasten to the holy Resurrection on the Third Day,

That shines on the world with the glory of eternal life!

Beyond all hope, I am wondrously set free, Mother of God,

From all that troubles me,

For I have obtained in my distress your invincible intercession!

You are always swift to help those who beseech you in faith,

Dispelling the darkness of their many sins.

Therefore, with thanksgiving, I cry to you:

Accept, Lady, this small offering of grateful praise,

And be my Help in all things!

Come, nations; let us sing a song to Christ our God!

He divided the waters and guided the people from bondage in Egypt,

For He is greatly glorified!


How shall I begin to weep for my failures?

Where can I make a start for salvation?

I have lived as a Prodigal.

Save me by the ways that are Yours,

Bountiful One.


This is the time of repentance.

This is the day of salvation.

This is the beginning of the fast.

Be vigilant, my soul!

Close the door of your passions, and seek the Lord.


The tempest of my sins has drawn me to the depths of despair.

But I flee to the sea of Your mercy:

O Lord, save me!


I have become a slave to sin.

I alone have opened the doors to passion, O Word, but convert me by Your compassion, Savior!


Come, nations; let us sing a song to Christ our God!

He divided the waters and guided the people from bondage in Egypt,

For He is greatly glorified!


This is the time of great spiritual efforts,

The course of the Fast.

Let us all begin with sincerity,

Bearing good works to the Lord as gifts.


Let us praise the simple unity of three Lights,

The most powerful and ever-existing and ever-acting Lord and God:

The Father Almighty, the Son and the Spirit!


Let us sing of the holy Mount of God, of the immaculate Mary,

From whom the Sun of Righteousness arose,

And shone light on those who were in darkness: Christ the life of all.


Glory to You, our God, glory to You.


The fiery chariot received Elijah who was strengthened by fasting.

By fasting, Moses was a seer of ineffable things, and by it, we shall see Christ.


Glory to You, our God, glory to You.


Adam ate the food and was cast out of paradise for his indulgence.

But we receive the fast with joy, Lord:

Show us worthy of perfect repentance, Lover of mankind.


Come, nations; let us sing a song to Christ our God!

He divided the waters and guided the people from bondage in Egypt,

For He is greatly glorified!


Let us praise God Who descended into the fiery furnace to the Hebrew youths

And changed the flame into dew: sing of His works and exalt Him forever!


Christ, by the light of the fear of You, renew my soul,

which is in darkness and burning with bitterness;

show me the light of salvation so that I may glorify You forever.


Having despised the fullness of passions, my humble soul, be nourished by the food of good deeds.

Take joy in the sweetness of fasting, avoiding the woe of sweetness, and be enriched forever.


My soul was blinded, darkened by the drunkenness of passions.

In no way can I look to You, O God.

Therefore, be bountiful to me and enlighten me

and open to me the gates of true repentance.


Pure Virgin, you have transformed our earthly and corruptible existence

into a spiritual heaven.

By your prayers, direct our entreaties and supplications to your Son,

the God and King of all.


Faithful, let us enter the fast with joy!

Let us not be sad, but let us clean our faces with the waters of passionlessness,

blessing and exalting Christ forever!


Anointing our heads with the oil of mercy, let us not use many words

praying to our Father who is in heaven,

but let us bless and exalt Christ forever!


Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: the Lord!


Faithful, let us hymn the Father, ever-existing from before eternity;

the Son, who is equally without beginning, and the Spirit, shining forth from the Father:

the three consubstantial persons, one all-powerful Principle and



Mary, the chosen of God, the true purification of the faithful:

from you, forgiveness is given to all in abundance.

Do not cease to intercede before your Son and Lord

for all who sing and magnify you!


Glory to You, our God, glory to You.


The Lord consecrated and sanctified these Forty Days of the Fast

by fasting Himself for forty days.

Having entered into them, brethren, let us cry aloud:

Blessing and exalting Christ forever!


We praise, bless and worship the Lord,

Singing and exalting Him throughout all ages!…


Let us with one mind, magnify in song

The Word of God who came from God:

Who by His ineffable Wisdom came to renew Adam,

Who, through eating, had wickedly fallen into corruption.

The Word who for our sake, was ineffably incarnate of the Virgin.


This is the first day of the Fast.

For you, soul, let it be the setting aside of sin, the return to God; to life with Him.

Flee from the abyss of evil.

Love only those ways which lead to peace,

resting before and within God.


Having been tempted by foul thoughts, I have sinned in the flesh,

but yet I cry out: Save me, Lord; save me, only gracious One.

Do not condemn me to the fires of Gehenna,

though I am fully worthy of such condemnation.


Clothed with the radiant garments of the Fast,

let us shed the dark and grievous garments of debauchery,

so that, illumined by divine good works,

we may behold in faith the radiant Passion of the Savior.

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