Did you know that the Book of Common Prayer historically has not authorized the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday? If you grew up with the 1979 Prayer Book, you’ve probably assumed that we’ve always kept the ashes in Ash Wednesday.
But no, until 1979, we had “the Commination” (this link is the 1662 version, but feel free to look at it in the 1928 book or another if you prefer). It was a service of serious remonstration and repentance. Elements of it, such as the congregational praying of Psalm 51, survive in the modern Ash Wednesday service, but on the whole its accusatory character has been lost. Perhaps modern (or modernist) liturgical revisionists found it too dour and depressing for the contemporary worshiper. But in these times of blatant and rampant sin in the church, it may be worth drawing upon the old Commination once again. Check it out!