No, I’m not Catholic, and I know you don’t have to be to take part in Lent, but I think I will! Last year, for the the first time I found out what Lent was. Much to my surprise, I was also enlightened to the meaning of Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. I liked the idea of Fat Tuesday a lot! Here’s the briefest of explanations and some interesting facts I learned.
First of all Fat Tuesday is actually called Mardi Gras which is French for Fat Tuesday. Now you get the picture. It is the feasting before the fasting; it is pizza and doughnuts, french fries, and onion rings. Eat whatever you want, as much as you want, because the next 46 days are fasting days.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season. Catholics attend mass to receive ashes on their forehead, and the priest will say these words over them, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return, repent and believe in the gospel. This is the beginning of Lent.” Others such as Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists also observe the day and season. Since 2010, many have taken advantage of the “Ashes to Go” opportunity in which ministers are on the street to give the blessing and ashes for those who cannot attend church. Another innovative idea is “drive-thru-ashes.” This also provides a way for people who can’t attend church to participate in the act of repentance. Pastor Brian Erikson of Alabaster First United Methodist Church, Birmingham, Alabama explains, “The folks that are driving past our churches are hurting. This is a humiliating and humbling act of remembering we are all dust; in the final end, we are all returning to dust. That shared mortality, that shared dependence on the breath of God to make us more than dust, is a pretty pressing human need. The most moving parts of the morning are people weeping at an expression of grace and someone being willing to pray with them.”
After receiving ashes at mass Wednesday morning, my friend, Phyllis sent me this text, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return, repent and believe in the gospel. This is the beginning of Lent.” I appreciated her sending me this reminder. It is a sobering thought to realize that we have a limited time on the earth. We should remember this as often as possible and make sure our heart is clean and right with God. It is also a time to be thankful for the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ who made a way for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be in right relationship with God and look forward to eternal life. This is the beginning of Lent.
We can choose to give up something for Lent as a sign of repentence and our acknowledgement of what Christ gave up for us on the cross. This is done beginning on Ash Wednesday for the next forty-six days which brings us to “Holy Saturday,” the day before Easter. Anything we choose to deny ourselves, according to Neela Kale, should “help you to turn towards God in this holy season of Lent.”
Have you ever given anything up for Lent? Please tell us one of your experiences, or what it means to you.
In the next post, I will let you know what I am giving up for Lent. Please stop by. I think it may surprise you. I pray the Lord will richly bless you in this season.