February 5, 2008

Fat Tuesday-Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras

Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday. I didn't grow up with Lent, but I like these 40 day periods, like Advent too, to have a spiritual focus that can bring more meaning with anticipation to ordinary days. The word Lent comes from 'Lenten' meaning a 'lengthen'ing of days into Spring (yeah!).

Baptisms used to be done on Resurrection day in the early church and they'd have a 40 hour fast in readiness for the event. In 330 AD it was stretched from new converts to all Christians and for 40 days - believing it commemorated Jesus' 40 day desert fast. So the Tuesday before became a time for confession and repentance, and called Shrove Tuesday ('shiriving' means confession).

Prohibitions seem a thing for Lent, with giving up rich foods as the focus, which has turned Shrove Tuesday into Fat Tuesday. Since people were wanting to rid their homes of some ingredients, they started having meals of pancakes, becoming tradition. Meat is sometimes given up too. Mardi Gras has become a revelry, a 'carnival', which means 'farewell to meat (flesh)'. It seems the given up items are being worshiped, and the time of self-reflection has turned into a self-indulgence!

In the movie "Chocolate" we see what some people do in giving up things for Lent. In the book Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner (a good book), she gives up reading for Lent. Ugh, that would be a hard one. A couple years ago friends of mine wanted to wear a tasseled bracelet (Numbers 15)(which I made for everyone) for a reminder of something - for me it was to exercise everyday, Sunday's excluded (which I think I'll do again this year - without the bracelet).

Some people will use tonight as a carnival celebration of looking inside ones self. People need to haul up aspects of personality they choose to bury and tend to remask a persona. I have friends who one year came to such a party with masks representing their hidden self, and maybe ridiculing egos. When Adam and Eve lost innocence what did they do? they sought to cover themselves. Paul asked us to "put on the new self" to "put on Christ".

Because meat, cheese, cream, butter, milk and eggs were typically avoided, small breads began to be made. Germans named theirs "pretzels" - "little arms". They were visual reminders for the heart, since formed in the shape of arms crossed over the chest - like praying.

God looks at the intentions of the heart, the spirit in which we do things. It's not just a matter of ritual but a matter of the heart!
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