Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shrove Tuesday

Pancake Day goes by many names: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival.

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, a period of fasting, begins. Fasting used to be much more severe than it is now. During the Middle Ages, people fasted from meat, dairy and eggs, as these were thought to be the foods that gave the most pleasure. They also abstained from festivities and from sex! So, in preparation for the desert time ahead, the people celebrated and partied and ate. Many of the foods eaten on this day were rich, sweet delicacies, earning it the name 'Fat Tuesday' or 'Mardi Gras'. Its other name is Shrove Tuesday. The common belief is that shrove comes from the old English word 'shrive', meaning 'confess' as people were expected to attend confession and receive absolution before entering the season of Lent.

Pancakes were useful for using up the milk and eggs in the house before the Lenten fast. We continue the tradition today with Pancake Day. Ah, Pancake Day. I love pancakes. I love them covered in lemon and sugar, or maple syrup, or chocolate sauce. I even like savoury pancakes. You have to be a pretty special foodstuff to get your own day of celebration.

Just as the Christians of the Middle Ages rid their homes of the foods they would be unable to eat for the next six weeks and confessed their sins, we ought to rid our lives of those thoughts and habits that do not befit Christians. You might not visit a priest to make your confession, but we can all bow our heads before God and tell Him we are sorry for the things we have done wrong. And as the Christians of old fasted through the weeks of Lent to identify with Jesus' fast in the desert and to bring them closer to God, we can pick areas in our lives that need to be cleaned out to enable us to walk more closely with our Heavenly Father.

When I was at school, everyone seemed to give up chocolate for Lent, with varying degrees of success. It's still a popular fast today. My dad, however, encouraged us to take something up instead; to start doing something that would help another or bring us into a better relationship with God. One year I washed up after dinner every night. Another year I determined to focus more on reading my Bible.

This year I feel called towards justice. God calls us to "Act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with Him."(Micah 6:8). I intend to spend Lent reading more of my Bible, praying more and writing letters to my MP and others regarding issues where I can speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

What will you be doing this Lenten season?

No comments:

Post a Comment