LENT – good sequel

From Maggi Dawn

I’m interested to notice that a lot of people in this blogvillage don’t know what the significance of Shrove tuesday and Ash Wednesday is. When I was a child (several hundred years ago now) this stuff was taught at Sunday School (but nobody goes there any more) at Church (but we do alternative themed services now) and in school (but we’re too PC to teach relgion properly). So for all those of you who read this, don’t know, and would like to, read on:

Lent is the 6-week period before Easter when the Church is in a period of fasting – i.e. reducing ones consumption of food and other comestibles to a simple level. Meat would usually be off the menu, and sweet things. (This is the same reason why Catholics traditionally eat fish on a Friday, as friday is always a Fast, so no meat). There are occasional feast days within Lent – many Churches pause their fast ona Sunday, for instance. But traditionally you would not get married during Lent. The point of Lent is not so much to give things up, but actively to return to faithfulness to Christ. I must say, though, that in a society increasingly in failing health through obesity and heart disease, a return to the pattern of fasting and feasting would be no bad thing, for our physical as well as our spiritual health.

Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent; and with the fast about to begin, people would use up all their remaining rich foods – eggs and fat to make the pancakes, which were then eaten with any leftover meat or sugar. Not so much a “last treat”, more of an economic using up of the leftovers. Shrove is a word – from Middle English (? from memory) – same root as Shrive or shriven, referring to absolution or pronouncing of forgiveness. (UPDATE: I checked my facts with a Medievalist at lunchtime: this is right! Phew)

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and during the communion Ashes, mixed with holy oil, are pressed onto the foreheads of the communicants. The Ashes (made by burning Palm Crosses from Palm Sunday the previous year) represent death. The prayer or ‘motto’ of the day is this: “Remember that you are but dust: from dust you came, and to dust you shall return. Turn from sin and be faithful to Christ. ”

Happy Lent, everyone. I’m off to collect our Ashes now.
# posted by maggi @ 8:26 AM

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