This year Shrove Tuesday is on 2nd March and the start of Lent on 2nd March with Ash Wednesday, so it is a good time to think about preparing for Lent now as we will have started Lent just as the magazines for March are coming out.
What about Shrove Tuesday? Most people think about pancakes and for many people it is a day to celebrate. When it was first instituted, centuries past, the mood this day aimed to inculcate was rather different. It was designed as a solemn occasion, a time for sober reflection and earnest soul-searching, for recognising and confessing your sins so that in the ensuring days of Lent, you could strive to overcome them.
Which, then, is the right approach? Despite the church’s original intention, Shrove Tuesday swiftly became associated with fun and revelry celebrated in some countries with carnivals , in others with parties and feasting and in others with pancake races. Aware that Lent involves six weeks of self-denial, people were determined to indulge themselves before it started – to eat, drink and be merry. The rationale may be questionable, but they were right nonetheless to celebrate for Lent, like any Christian season, should finally be about rejoicing. The clue as to why is I the word ‘shrove’ from the old English term ‘shrive,’ meaning to hear confession and grant absolution. We acknowledge our sins in Lent not to brood on them but to receive forgiveness. That is what God offers us today, tomorrow and every day – something that is truly worth celebrating!
And so, preparing for Lent we traditionally give up something (or some of us take something extra on). Below are a series of suggestions of things that we can fast from and thing. I am not suggesting that we do all of these but perhaps it is good to reflect on one that is pertinent to ourselves.
- Fast from judging others, feast on Christ dwelling in them.
- Fast from emphasis on difference, feast on the unity of all life.
- Fast from apparent darkness, feast on the reality of all light.
- Fast from thoughts of illness, feast on the healing power of God.
- Fast from words that pollute, feast on phrases that encourage.
- Fast from discontent, feast on gratitude.
- Fast from anger, feast on patience.
- Fast from pessimism, feast on optimism.
- Fast from worry, feast on God’s providence.
- Fast from complaining, feast on appreciation.
- Fast from unrelenting pressures, feast on unceasing prayer.
- Fast from hostility, feast on non-resistance.
- Fast from bitterness, feast on forgiveness.
- Fast from self-concern, feast on compassion for others.
- Fast from lethargy, feast on enthusiasm.
- Fast from thoughts that weaken, feast on promises that inspire.
- Fast from shadows of sorrow, feast on promises that inspire.
- Fast from idle gossip, feast on purposeful silence.
- Fast from the problems that overwhelm, feast on prayer that sustains.
Next month there will be more details of what we as a church will be offering throughout Lent, including stations of the cross, a course and what will be available on-line. As we walk towards Lent, think about what you feel God is wanting to speak to you about.