Ash on the forehead, beads around the neck

There has been an odd split, once again, in society when it comes to the religious (Christian) calendar. The connection between fat Tuesday and lent seems to have diminished beyond all recognition. I also feel this has helped in reducing the importance of lent itself.

Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) was intended to prepare yourself for the season of fasting in Lent. The Lenten season was a time of fasting so Shrove Tuesday was a day to eat lots of food with the idea of storing up fat for Lent (as well as fellowship with other believers). Also (from Wikipedia),

The origin of the name Shrove lies in the archaic English verb “to shrive” which means to absolve people of their sins. It was common in the Middle Ages for “shriveners” (priests) to hear people’s confessions at this time, to prepare them for Lent.

I am sure there could be numerous discussions about how this traditional feast has become the massive party that it is today. Most likely those discussions will boil down to people like to party.My thoughts are more focused on this disassociation of Fat Tuesday with Ash Wednesday.

The Lent season, which has its roots in the church back about 1000 years or so, is started off on Ash Wednesday, today. Traditionally, the ashes from the burned palm leaves of the previous years Easter Sunday are placed on the forehead in the form of a cross symbolizing purification and repentance:

the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified (Hebrews 9.13, NRSV)

The 40 days (not counting Sundays) of Lent are marked by solidarity with Christ, often symbolically by renouncing something that is of importance to us. Time should also be spent in meditation on our sin as well as on the sacrifice made by Christ. That sacrifice also makes Lent a season of hope leading to Easter and the paradox of the Cross. Christ was without blemish, but became the suffering servant, an ironic fulfillment of OT Prophesy.

I have read some bad Biblical translations, but I am pretty sure I have never read about Jesus getting smashed. Fat Tuesday is to prepare us for the Lent season and Ash Wednesday is the beginning of that season. Why has popular culture taken over the former, but not the latter? It seems so silly to clam the first half the tradition, but not the second. If people want to party and get trashed, that is their prerogative, but don’t pretend it is somehow related to Lent. I know it is possible, but I doubt too many of the girls in the Girls Gone Wild videos will be attending Ash Wednesday services tonight.

I titled this post ash on the forehead, beads around the neck because popular culture would have us believe, even if it isn’t voiced, that it is perfectly logical to show up at our Ash Wednesday services while still wearing the beads from the previous night (if you don’t understand the reference, consider yourself lucky). This is a bad view to hold. I wish Christians could reclaim the true meaning of Fat Tuesday and its connection to the season of Lent. I know that isn’t going to happen though and that’s too bad. This is just another sign of the depravity of man. I hope that today Christians around the world will enter into this season with a heart of repentance and will use Lent to grow closer to God and His son who died for us. Use this time to better yourself and your understanding of Gods word.

This Lent seasons I will be giving up something that has been distracting me from growing closer to God. I watch too much television. So this year I am going to give up TV for lent. I am going to allow myself to a break on Thursday (CSI) and Sunday (Simpsons and Arrested Development) nights, but other than that, I am taking a TV fast. The time I spend watching TV could be better spent praying, studying, reading, and numerous things. I know it is going to be difficult, but it is something I have really felt called to do (I could NEVER come up with this on my own!). I am also giving up Coke (and the like) which is more of a health issue but seems to be Lenten tradition. You can pray that God will give me strength to do both and that he will use this time to build me up and teach me.

God Bless and Shalom as you enter this Lent season,

“From ashes you have come, to ashes you shall return.”

Original Post with comments [UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

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