ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those 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 thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Collect for the first day of Lent, commonly called Ash Wednesday.
Now there cannot be a fitter time than that the Church has set us forth, that is now, at this time of the year. For now is the time of the year to plant in. In the picture of the months, in this next month, you will see nothing but men grafting and setting trees: it is the husbandry and the business of the month, wonderfully fitly chosen therefore that this tree may keep time with the rest. And now is the time that the sap goes up; so as there could not be a fitter time for St. John to call upon us …
And with high wisdom is this time so set that the time of our repentance, the forty days of it, end in the Passover, in the passing of wrath over us, as did the destroying angels over the houses in Egypt. That the mortifying of sin might end in the rising of Christ in us. The use of fruit is fruition; and this is the fruition in this life, even the fruits of the Spirit, fear and love and joy in the Holy Spirit. And in the life to come, the fruit of the tree of life in the midst of Paradise.
—From Lancelot Andrewes’ sermon before King James I, Ash Wednesday 1624 (HT Catholicity and Covenant )