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Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is February 22! Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” and the German word “lenz,” and refers to the Spring-time of the year when the days begin to “lengthen.”

Lent, for the Christian community, is that 40-day season NOT counting Sundays leading up to Easter. Originally, the faithful were required to fast and pray for 40 hours in preparation for Easter; 40 hours representing the length of time between Jesus’ death and his resurrection.

Later, this time of preparation was extended to six days. Much later, the candidates for Church membership were required to fast, and pray, and confess their sins during the 40 days before they were allowed to join the Church on Easter Sunday! Lent, as we observe it today, dates from the 9th century.  Current practice includes fasting, prayer, confession of sins, and the giving up of something important during Lent.

Ashes are a symbol of one’s penitence, sorrow for one’s sins. Traditionally, following Palm Sunday, the palm branches are burned; the ashes are kept, and used  on Ash Wednesday the next year. On Ash Wednesday the faithful kneel at the altar; the pastor or priest dips his thumb in the ashes and makes the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead, as he says: “Remember, thou art dust and to dust thou wilt return.” Some Christian communities substitute the ritual of commitation, a reciting of a series of curses pronounced upon sins (Deuteronomy 28).

Shrove Tuesday is the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The name derives from the term “shrive” or “to hear confessions.” The faithful are encouraged to confess their sins as they prepare for the holy days of  Lent.

In many places around the world Shrove Tuesday, or Madri Gras, is celebrated with riotous merrymaking before the faithful enter upon the more somber days of Lent. In England Shrove Tuesday is called Pancake Day, derived from the custom of eating pancakes in preparation for Lent.

Ash Wednesday marks a new beginning for us all! During this Season, God gives us one more chance to live according to His rules, to follow His instructions, and to live life as He intended for it to be lived!

Ash Wednesday marks a new beginning for all of us! During Lent, we have the opportunity to repent, to turn our backs on worldly ways. Life is too short to be selfish, greedy, envious and jealous of others; life is too short to allow hatred and anger to room in our hearts, too short to harbor a grudge against another, too short to lie and cheat and tear down. Lent is a time to give up our bad, sinful, habits!

Ash Wednesday marks a new beginning for us all! During Lent, we have an opportunity to choose a better way of living: Love for God and love for all the people He has created; doing good for others in every way we can; saying a good, encouraging word to people; forgiving a person 49 times when we have been hurt by them; working for the good of all people instead of looking out for No. 1. Lent is a good time to add some good habits to life!

Ash Wednesday marks a new beginning for all of us! The door to the Church is open! The Altar stands ready to receive us! The Ashes of Repentance have been prepared for us! The Lord God invites us all to come and receive the gift of new life, eternal life!

Lent will be what we make! Ash Wednesday is an open door to a way to a new and better life! Let’s make the most of our God-given opportunity!

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