Easter Day is on the last day of March this year, so this means that Ash Wednesday is in the second week of February and marks the start of Lent. We sometime just take our traditions for granted and so sometimes it is useful to remind ourselves from whence they come.....
The word ‘Lent’ appears to have its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon, where the word means to lengthen, indicating that days are getting longer and spring is coming. 'Lenting’ means sticking to fasting during Lent.
Ash Wednesday is so named because Ash is used to put a cross- shaped mark on the forehead of Christians to remind them of Jesus and the 40 days and nights of temptations he faced. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are from the burnt remains of the Palm Crosses used the year before at Easter.
The colour for Lent is purple, which means both sorrow because we do wrong, and royalty.
Some churches also decorate their church with grey banners and cloths for the whole season of Lent as a reminder of the grey ashes of Ash Wednesday. In the Middle Ages many Christians had the Ash Wednesday ashes sprinkled on their heads, and some wore rough sackcloth clothes to show they were sorry for what they had done wrong.
Lent is a reminder that Jesus went through suffering to make him stronger and more trusting in God. Many people ‘fast’ during Lent, which means giving up food for a day or sometimes many days. The aim is to help use time and energy thinking about God, and to become cleaned out and pure.
In the past Christians were baptised on the Saturday before Easter, so Lent for them was a time of getting ready by fasting (not eating food), and praying.
The modern version of Lent encourages us to give things up so that we have more time to concentrate on Jesus. It is a good thing to get our bodies cleaned up, which is why many people give up sweets or drinking at this time of year. But Lent is about allowing God to clean us up too.
Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday was the day when everyone used up their best and richest food such as eggs and fat, to prepare for 40 days of limited, mini-meals!
Shrove Tuesday has become known as ‘Pancake Day’, because traditionally pancakes used up the good food and made a feast to begin the season with. The word ‘Shrive’ means to confess, so people were encouraged to say sorry to God before the beginning of Lent itself. The word ‘Carnival' is derived from a Latin phrase meaning ‘no meat;’, and originally was connected with the three days of feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday.In French-speaking nations Shrove Tuesday is called Mardi Gras, which roughly means Tuesday of Fat!
Some people do really good things during Lent to make a difference to others, or to change the world. To help make a small difference and our contribution, over the years the church in Wadworth and Loversall has chosen to raise money for a particular charity and this year we have chosen to support a local Autism charity, NORSACA so please support the events which are outlined in another part of this magazine.