Next week we enter the period of Lent – traditionally the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays). Lent is a time to focus our hearts on Jesus and all he has done so we can know the depth of God’s incredible and amazing love for us. An ancient yet current practice for Christians all over the world, the traditions around it are many and varied.
One of those traditions is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. It’s the day before Lent officially begins, and is a day to celebrate and eat heartily before the fasting and reflection of Lent begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. Why are pancakes often the choice for Fat Tuesday?
With the more solemn period of Lent, making pancakes were a way to use up any stocks of milk, butter, and eggs which were often restricted foods during the Lenten period of abstinence starting back as far as the fifteenth century. At FAITH, we enjoy pancakes and lots and lots of bacon made and served by our youth from 5-7 p.m. on February 28th!
On Ash Wednesday, chances are you will see a bunch of people walking around with dirt (ashes mixed with oil) on their foreheads. If you have participated in an Ash Wednesday service and then gone into public, have you been asked “why the smudge on your forehead?” How do you respond with the significance of that mark?
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the Lenten period, and is celebrated with a service of reflection. The ashes placed in the shape of a cross remind us we are dust and to dust we will return. The practice ties today’s believers to the ancient practice mentioned in various parts of the Old Testament where people put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance. For example, Job repented “in dust and ashes.”
The earliest celebrations of Lent can be traced back to Father Irenaus of Lyons in about 130-200 AD. In the 600’s AD, Gregory the Great moved Lent’s beginning to a Wednesday in order to get the true 40 days. Lent has always been a time of reflection, repentance, fasting and prayer. There is great value in pondering Jesus’ sacrificial love for us and what we want to do in response during this time. Often, something is given up (or fasted from) during this period. It isn’t always food, but can be television, or other activities that consume our time and often keep us from an inward focus. In giving something up or fasting from it, the time usually spent on the item given up is to be spent in prayer and reflection. At FAITH this year, we’ll use Lent as a time to connect our following of Jesus (serving on mission) to our being with Jesus (feeding our souls). Our Ash Wednesday services (at noon and 6:30 p.m.) will help us start this journey by taking time to breathe in the breath of God through word, communion, and prayer stations for the whole family. – Judi Brandow, Communication Specialist