At the end of this month we will reach Ash Wednesday (26th February).
Ash Wednesday is preceded by Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day! Originally the day before Ash Wednesday was a day of penance, when Christians would seek absolution before embarking on the season of Lent. This was known as being shriven or, possibly, shrove, hence Shrove Tuesday.
Lent itself was traditionally a time of fasting, so the practice began of using up eggs and fats before commencing the Lenten fast. These were made into pancakes, which is how we get to Pancake Day. The feasting on pancakes is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more popular than the day of penance, so that is what we now know Shrove Tuesday for. Around the world the day is marked by many festivals and carnivals. Mardi Gras (‘Fat Tuesday’) is probably the best known of these.
It is good to have a mixture in our lives of periods of celebration and periods of reflection. We need times of joy, when we rejoice in what is good, perhaps with a party or a meal out with friends. But we also need times to look at our lives and consider what our priorities are.
The church’s year provides opportunities for both. At times like Christmas and Easter we celebrate the goodness of God, while at times like Advent and Lent we take time to reflect before God on who we are and what is most important.
In our cluster of churches we will begin Lent with a simple service of Communion with imposition of ashes.
During this service we each receive the mark of the cross on our forehead. This is an outward sign of our desire to repent and live a life which is pleasing to God.
Most of us will wash the ash off before we go to bed, but hopefully we remember the commitment we have made to observe the season of Lent.
As the ashing is carried out we hear the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This reminder of our mortality also reminds us of the immortality of God.
The service will begin at 7pm on Wednesday 26th February at Christ Church. All are welcome, whether you are a member of a church or not.
Even if you don’t join us on Ash Wednesday, I encourage you to make time for quiet reflection during the season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate at Eastertide.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Revd Andy Wilson
Vicar, Christ Church Portsdown
Priest-in-Charge, St John the Baptist Purbrook
Curate, Church of the Good Shepherd Crookhorn
Chaplain, Havant & Waterlooville FC