Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This prayer reminds us of something deeply important – no matter the sins we have committed, God loves us and is a forgiving God. We use this Collect to start off the season of Lent, a season that calls us to repentance, contemplation, and intentionality in following the way of Jesus – the way that leads to the Cross. This repentance opens up our eyes to the love of God that is being poured out upon us. This penitence prepares our hearts to be made anew once more. We come to God with our laments and pleas for forgiveness knowing that God is good and forgiving. One way to think of this is to view it through the lens of confession. When we come forward in confession we do not do it because of how bad we are, but rather as an acknowledgement of how good God is. We confess because we know that God is the God of all mercy, perfect remission, and forgiveness!
We mark ourselves with ashes on this day to remember what we are, dust. We remember that we came from dust and that we will die and return to dust. We do this not out of gloom and doom, but rather as a reminder that God loves this dust! God is the God of all mercy! God formed us from the dust and breathed life into us. One day again God will breathe life into the dust as we rise again in glory at the resurrection that is to come. This Collect reminds us our mortality, our hope, and of the mercy of the Lord we serve.