is a season of forty days that begin with Ash Wednesday and end with
lighting the First Fire and the Paschal Candle at the Easter Vigil.
the week of the Last Sunday after Epiphany, comes a popular feasting
day called Shrove Tuesday. "Shrove" is a Middle English word (past tense for shrive) that refers to making a confession and receiving absolution. In the English tradition pancake suppers
are a favorite offering for Shrove Tuesday. It is also marked with
collecting the dried palm fronds from the previous year's Palm Sunday
celebration to be burned and used for the following day, Ash
Wednesday. This intentionally connects our failure as God's people to
live into the kingdom, proclaimed during Jesus' entrance into
Jerusalem, when the people hailed him as the Messiah [Matthew 21.9].
of Anglicanism, Shrove
is better known as Fat
It is a day of feasting, because it marks the last day to eat rich
foods – to clean out the cupboards before Lent begins on Ash
Wednesday, which is a day of fasting. There are two mandatory fasts
in Lent: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It should be noted that
exceptions are made for the elderly, those who are ill and children.
some people view Mardi Gras (like Saint Patrick's Day) as permission
to get drunk and take their clothes off. (One wonders if they will
enter the solemnity of Lent with equal enthusiasm.) Ironically, the
purpose of Lent, which is well expressed in the lessons and pleadings
of Ash Wednesday, is aimed to help us recognize how destructive sin
is; that we are in desperate need of a Saviour. “for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” revealed Saint Paul
Wednesday uses language and imagery that sound hauntingly similar to
the Prayer Book's graveside service: “dust to dust, and ashes to
ashes.” As the black ashes are imposed on the penitent's forehead
in the sign of the cross, she hears, “Remember O woman thou art
dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
and evil come with a horrific price: there must be a reckoning of
accounts. Sin is not undone by a dose of Tylenol, nor by a visit to
an abortion clinic. There is no justice in that. Imagine a rapist
offering a candy bar to his victim and flippantly saying “Sorry”
in the process. Who would think that was adequate justice? And yet
we expect much more of God, if we expect anything at all. We expect
Him to be pleased with our cavalier “sorries” as if we are exempt
from the same justice that we expect for others. Others must pay,
but surely God isn't bothered by what I do. [See 2 Samuel chapters
11 and 12]
forty days of Lent invite us to sincerely examine our relationship
with God, to urge us out of rationalization and self-justification,
and toward repentance and reconciliation.
the church community, the atmosphere of Lent changes in a number
ways: Crosses are veiled in purple; God's people are called to fast.
Alleluias, Glorias and flowers are omitted from the Liturgies. In
short, we are made to consider life without the love and mercy of
are also invited to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land by means of
walking the Stations of the Cross where Jesus' Passion is remembered.
In the Middle Ages Christians would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem
for Holy Week. Over time, a tradition of setting up artistic
replicas of the Stations at one's local parish became popular for
those who could not go to Jerusalem. Thereby making it possible for
everyone to make a Lenten pilgrimage.
to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.