Community of Christ Enduring Principles Spotlight
Grace and Generosity
Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent
Which of the terms in that title are familiar to you? You may recognize “Mardi Gras” as referring to the colourful (to say the least) celebrations famously held in New Orleans (and other locations) each year at this time. Mardi Gras, in all its celebratory excesses, actually arises from the more restrictive and definitely religious tradition of Shrove Tuesday in which Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession with their local priest and were “schriven” (i.e., absolved of their sins). Associated with Shrove Tuesday is the tradition of “Fat Tuesday” – which is the direct translation of “Mardi Gras” – in which people attempted to use up the fats and sugars in their pantries in advance of the tradition of fasting for Lent (see below for more on Lent). This is the origin in England of what you may have heard of as “Pancake Tuesday” and thus the pancake suppers held usually at Anglican churches.
Ash Wednesday is the day after Shrove Tuesday. The ashes are traditionally made from the dried palm leaves of “last year’s” Palm Sunday celebrations, just before Easter. A pinch of ash is traditionally smudged on a person’s forehead by their priest as a sign of penance (perhaps in response to the excesses of the night before?!). (All of this information, and more, is readily accessible from a variety of sources through a “Google Search”.)
Finally, Ash Wednesday (February 17 this year) is the first day of the season of Lent.
Lent is a time of preparation. A time when we move toward the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. A time to move intently toward God, ridding ourselves of the distance and distractions we have built into our relationships. Lent is when we are called to respond with radical generosity and spiritual discipline to God’s covenants that we may draw near to the One we seek.
-From “A Guide for Lent,” p. 2
You may be familiar with the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” This arises from the spiritual practice of fasting that is connected with the tradition of Lent – thus the purging of fats and sugars on Shrove/Pancake Tuesday.
None of these terms or occasions have been traditionally a part of the practice of Community of Christ. I was aware of Pancake Tuesday as a child only because we went to the Anglican Church every year for the pancake supper! I was distantly aware that some of my Catholic and mainline Protestant friends were marking this season of Lent.
In the last fifteen to twenty years or so, you may have heard a bit more about Lent in our church because it is a major part of the Christian calendar that provides the themes for our worship planning guides. Although fasting may be mentioned in those resources, the main emphasis is on meditation and spiritual practices that focus on preparing for the Easter season. Easter Sunday occurs 40 days after Ash Wednesday (not including Sundays) – which recognizes the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism and before he began his formal ministry.
Check “A Guide for Lent,” on the church website for more information and six weeks’ worth of suggestions for meditations and worship leading to Easter.
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
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