The Beginning of Lent | February 28, 2019
The day before Ash Wednesday is called Shrove Tuesday. It is the custom beginning the Lenten Season to get rid of everything sweet in the home before the fasting held during Lent. The name, Shrove Tuesday, implies that one is “shriven” or confesses sins and receives absolution. Several dietary items were restricted in the past that over time seems to have become the custom of “giving up something for Lent.”
“Shrove Season” was originally a three-day event culminating with a feast. So, in preparing for the Lenten Season which restricted one’s diet, all of the sweets had to go. But, as some today are loath to waste anything, the items to be restricted were used up in the feast.
Over a time, the three days of celebration became “Carnival.” Certain naughtiness that occurs at Carnival caused the church to make the celebration a single day. That is Shrove Tuesday. We and several other denominations around the world celebrate with the fixing and eating of pancakes.
The Fat and the sweet from the homes is consumed and we are supposedly ready for the austerity of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the official day on which the Lenten season begins. As in biblical times, persons who were repenting often would dress in sackcloth (think Burlap bag) and sit in and smear ashes over their head and body. The ashes on the forehead symbolize the recognition of sin and the repentance for those sins. There are words that are commonly spoken during the imposition of the ashes. They remind those receiving the ashes that they are mortal and that the body will return to “dust and ashes.”
The season of Lent was originally set in place to emulate the forty days in which Jesus was in the desert without food or water while being tempted. In its older forms, much was expected of believers. This included: doing penance, mortifying of the flesh, praying, doing a daily devotional, almsgiving, prayer and self-denial, as well as the confessing of sins. Today we choose our own ways of “celebrating” Lent. Many give up something. Often this is a bad habit that they want rid of anyway, although many believers today do take the self-sacrificial part of Lent helpful to their faith and choose to give up luxuries or things that are a true sacrifice. Lent actually is forty days long, not counting the six Sundays.
When we use the time wisely, we can feel a small portion of what Jesus suffered and may even feel the tension rise as the story takes Jesus to Jerusalem and all that follows. This makes Good or Black Friday very intense as we go with Jesus to the cross and to the grave. It is following such a journey that the joy of Easter Sunday morning is the greatest.