I looked at the parish bulletin and see there is a Word Service and Mass on Ash Wednesday. What is the difference between the two? This will be my first Ash Wednesday service so I’m wondering what to expect and the differences between the two.
A Word Service is the Mass without the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It’s probably led by a Deacon (or a layperson, but hopefully the Deacon). It would probably be Greeting, Penitential Rite, Reading, Psalm, Reading, Gospel, Prayer of the Faithful, Distribution of Ashes, Dismissal.)
Is one “better” than another?
A Word service is not the Mass. A Communion service is not the Mass. A Word service is the “Liturgy of the Word” component of the Mass.
Mass is not Mass without a priest, the consecration, and the complete liturgy.
Absolutely. The Mass is the Holy Sacrifice and is of inestimable value. The Word service with Ashes is some prayers and readings and distribution of ashes.
If you can’t go to the Mass, it’s acceptable to go to the word service with ashes, since this isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation. But if you can get to the Mass, please do so!
Some people are pressed for time, but others value the ashes above the Eucharist. They stay long enough to get the ashes and then leave. Priests get tired of celebrating the Liturgy of the Eucharistic for an empty church; so schedule a Liturgy of the Word for those.
I’m not so sure about that very pessimistic interpretation, at least not where we are. On Ash Wednesday at our cathedral, we’ll have our usual 7:00 a.m. and 12:10 daily Masses. We’ve added a service of the Word with distribution of ashes, with our Deacon, at 5:00 p.m. and a 7:00 p.m. Mass with the Bishop in Spanish. The church will be packed for all four liturgies. We were able to add the service of the Word because the Deacon was available and the priests are not, and this lets us have an additional option for working people to worship.