On February 14, we will move into the season of Lent with the Ash Wednesday service at 6:30 p.m. Lent is a pensive season, running to Easter, which is April 1st this year. I encourage all of us to make thoughtful preparations, as Lent is a season of intentionally setting aside time for self-examination and other disciplines such as fasting, as a means for renewing our relationship with God and others.
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, and is often recognized as a day of celebration and feasting before Lent – with pancakes as the favored fare. Mt. Zion will celebrate Shrove Tuesday on February 13 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. with a pancake supper. But, there is more to know about Shrove [or Fat] Tuesday than digging in on pancakes.
Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the archaic Christian ritual of “shriving,” in which a person confesses their sins and receives absolution. Shrove Tuesday has been seen as the last chance to indulge oneself, using up foods not “allowed” in Lent. Some of the foods observant Christians of old would not eat during Lent included meat, fish, fats, eggs, and milk. So that food was not wasted, households would “feast” on shriving Tuesday to consume the foods that would not last the 40 days of Lent.
The need to eat up the fats led to the use of the French “Mardi Gras,” which means fat Tuesday. Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday because they could use up eggs, fats, and milk, along with a little flour. Some folks have also offered symbolism with the pancake ingredients:
Eggs - Creation
Flour - The staff of life
Salt - Wholesomeness
Milk - Purity
Fasting and abstinence are traditional observances during Lent, which yield richer experiences when matched with other practices such as prayer, service, giving, contemplation, and studies. As Lent is 40 days [Sundays don’t count], we are reminded how Christ prayed and fasted in the desert for 40 days. I have always appreciated the particular solemn quality of Lent, to quiet my soul and restore an awareness of God’s Spirit convicting me and speaking into the depths of my heart.
Lent can help us strip away clutter in our lives, creating space for God to fill. If we have chosen to give up an activity during Lent, such as giving up [or limiting] time watching TV or on the internet, a good Lenten practice is to fill that time with a self-giving activity. While we may observe Lenten disciplines as individuals, also be on the lookout for various opportunities offered in the church, to help deepen your experience of Lent.
Yours in Christ,