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March 2, 2022, is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of Lent, and I last wrote about it on February 25, 2020, in Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020. I said the next Feast Day (after St Matthias, Apostle), was Ash Wednesday, which that year came on February 26.
Note that two weeks after that 2020 Ash Wednesday, the COVID pandemic hit:
…to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”
But of course, Ash Wednesday comes right after “Fat Tuesday,” also called Mardi Gras, or “Pancake Day,” or Shrove Tuesday. (From the word shrive,* meaning “to administer the sacrament of confession to; to absolve.”) Which is a pretty good metaphor for the kind of absolution some people may feel we need – because of all the calamities that have befallen us since that long-ago Ash Wednesday, 2020. (That long-ago time of innocence, before “the stuff hit the fan.”)
On the other hand there’s Job 5:7, a reminder that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (And that before the COVID we had a pretty good run of “not so bad.”)
But back on topic, to wit: Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.
See Wikipedia, and also On Ash Wednesday and Lent. The latter post explained a bit about the “Fight Between Carnival and Lent,” as shown in a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The point is, Ash Wednesday always comes after Fat Tuesday. And as an aside, the French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, which has now become a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”
As Wikipedia said, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.” But that debauchery is always – in the church calendar – followed by Lent. Lent in turn is a season devoted to “prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.
And by the way, you do get days off in Lent. There are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Sundays don’t count in the calculation. They’re essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” But back on topic…
As noted in My Lenten meditation – from 2016 – most people have traditional Lenten Disciplines that involve giving up something. (Preferably something they really enjoy.) On the other hand, some choose to add a discipline, a discipline that will “add to my spiritual life.”
For example, I spent the 2016 Lenten period “contemplating on how and when Moses wrote those first five books;” that is, the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. But this Lent I’ll be going back and revising an eBook I published in 2018, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” As you can tell by the title, it was way too militant. (As in having a “combative character; aggressive, especially in the service of a cause.)
I’ll be writing more about such Lenten practices in the near future. But for this Lenten 2022 discipline “adding to my spiritual life,” I’ll be revising and rewriting that 2018 book. It to be less militant, less confrontational, and “more Christian.” So wish me luck, but in the meantime:
Have a Happy Ash Wednesday!
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“Book of Common Prayer.” The passage is at page 339, Holy Eucharist Rite I post-communion prayer.
The upper image is courtesy of Mardi Gras – Wikipedia. Captioned: “Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street.”
Re: St. Matthias. See also St. Matthias, Zacchaeus, and the tough life of an Apostle.
Re, Full weeks of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020, and also On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid,” from July 2020.
Re: “Shrive.” See also SHRIVE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary, “(of a priest) to listen to someone’s confession about what they have done wrong, and offer forgiveness.”
Re: Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. See The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”
“46 days of Lent.” See Is Lent 40 or 46 Days Long and When Does it End? – Lent.
Re: “No such thing” book. The full title, “There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible. But just for giggles and grins, you can also search “no such thing as a conservative Christian” for some interesting results.
The lower image is courtesy of Ash Wednesday – Wikipedia. Caption: “Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian on Ash Wednesday.”
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