fat tuesday

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth,
faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk.

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility,
patience and love to your servant.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother,
for You are blessed from all ages to all ages.
Amen”

St. Ephraim the Syrian

“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself.
It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us,
and no longer the path that is too difficult for us…
Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


(a king cake and mardis gras beads)

We’ve heard a lot of talk about Manic Mondays, Wordless Wednesdays, Fabulous Fridays
and yes–even Taco Tuesdays…
but today we are actually going to be talking about a Tuesday other than
a Taco Tuesday—
we will be talking about, as well as “celebrating,” Fat Tuesday…

Yet how many of us truly understand the significance of a Fat Tuesday
or an Ash Wednesday or even that of a Good Friday?

So today we’ll take a little closer look at Fat Tuesday…
saving the other days for later.

Fat Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday— the eve of the beginning of Lent.
It is a day in which we are to “use up” the excess fat (think oil and butter)
in the house all before the beginning of the required fasting during the Lenten season.

Lent being the season that the Church marks the 40 days that Jesus spent in the
desert while being tempted by Satan.

During the 40 day fast, our Orthodox brothers and sisters will abstain from
consuming any fats, such as oils and butter, along with meat,
dairy products as well as alcohol.
Many of our Catholic and Anglican brethren will abstain from much the same.

There is even to be an abstinence from sexual intimacy…
meaning— ALL earthly pleasures are put on hold during the Great Fast of Lent…
because we are to fast not only from certain foods but from all that holds and binds
us to our earthly bodily pleasures….a time that affords us the opportunity of
transcending, as it were, our sinful, earthbound bodies.

It is a time in which we are to abstain from all that is earthly while striving
to turn more inward as well as upward with our thoughts and personal actions.
…A time of deep introspection and drawing closer to God while we lift
our spirits upward closer to the Spirit of God.

A time of abstinence, fasting, repentance and spiritual reverence.

Many denominations refer to Fat Tuesday as Shrove Tuesday, a term that comes
from the old middle English word ‘Shriven’ meaning that one goes to confession
and receives absolution for one’s sins.

A day, also, where many of the Christian faithful will indulge in a Pancake supper.

So not only are we to use up all of the excessive cooking fats in the house
as we prepare to ‘fast’—
we are also told that we are to both acknowledge and confess our sins while in turn,
receiving absolution.

The other day a fellow blogger, Christina Chase, offered an interesting post on Lent…
Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

Fat and Ashes: A Lenten Preview

I greatly enjoyed reading Christina’s take on fat vs ashes.

Her opening to the post was very telling.
She even added the image of a typical fast food meal…our daily intake of
“fat” that we so often take for granted.
Literal fat, as well as the fat that represents our sinful nature.

Christina mirrors that fast food fat image with the talk of our over the top revelry…

Revelry, might I add, that is currently taking place in locatoms such as New Orleans,
Venice, and Rio–
the world’s biggest draws for all things wanton and that of pre-Lenten celebrations.
A revelry that only grows greater while the observance of the Spiritual season
of Lent grows less and less.

Christina reminds us that it has become a giant excuse for a party really.
A far cry from the original intent of preparations and fasting of which eventually
leads to the celebration of life in triumphant joy found in the Ressurection of Christ.

Christina shares…
“Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, and it represents the last occasion
for eating rich, fatty foods before the fast of Lent begins.
However, who abstains from fat during 40 days of Lent anymore?
Funny how that tradition has faded away,
but the tradition of overindulgence and revelry has only increased.
It says a lot about us.”

Christina’s observation of our “fat” goes well beyond the literalness of fat in our diet
to that which is more of a symbolic fat—that of greed, self-indulgence and materialism…
that which is personal to that of a national level as witnessed in our government with
it’s excessive pork-barrel spending at the taxpayer’s expense…a vicious cycle.

As a long time observer of Lent, I love Christina’s words…
“If done prayerfully, we discover that our fulfillment as human beings is not dependent
upon extra stuff. We are invited to shed the excess and find out what
it truly means to be fulfilled.”

Amen!

She continues…

“We humans are not merely taste buds and pleasure sensors, after all.
We have minds and hearts because we are not only of flesh but also of spirit,
being created by God in divine image. The pure goodness of our souls gets tainted
and soiled by self-centeredness — when we want what we want because it feels good,
even if we know that it isn’t truly good for us or anyone else.”

Christina then switches her focus to ashes—that which is left to pass away—
“Much of earthly life is perishable and will not continue into eternity with
our spiritual souls.”

Musing what, in this life, will she have allowed to turn to ash and fade away…

I shared with Christina that whereas I loved her take on the ashes of our lives,
I actually see those ashes as more of a goal…they are the lessening of the fat,
with the ash being a passing away of that which I have failed to do
or be—the ashes being a cleansing of the fat…a burning away of the negative.

So whatever our take may be of the fat and ashes of our lives…
may we all be drawn ever closer to the passion, to the
death and final resurrection of our Redeemer and Savior.

40 days of the lessening of ourselves and the lessening of the fat that hinders our very souls.

Here are two links to previous posts regarding
Lent, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesdqy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/ashes-to-ashesa-history-lesson/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/ash-wednesday/

Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
(taken from the Book of Common Prayer)

DSC00344
(ash / Julie Cook / 2015)

Ash Wednesday, in the Christian faith, marks the start of the Lent—the season the Church recalls the 40 days Jesus spent fasting, praying and being tempted by Satan in the wilds of the desert. It was the time just prior to marking the beginning of His earthly ministry.

Today the Christian faithful mark the 40 days prior to Easter with devout self reflection, prayer and fasting beginning with today’s Ash Wednesday Service. Lent is a time of spiritual house cleaning and cleansing.

The use of ashes in the Ash Wednesday service has been a part of the Christian Lenten service since the Middle Ages as ashes have long been associated as a sign of penitence. The ashes used during the service are the blessed and later burnt palm leaves from the prior year’s Palm Sunday Service and are used to mark the foreheads of the faithful as a remembrance that we are all dust and to dust we shall return–a phrase also used during the service for the Burial of the Dead.

EP-140309142.jpg&updated=201403051558&MaxW=800&maxH=800&updated=201403051558&noborder
(image courtesy the Daily Herald)

The imposition of ashes was actually removed from the Anglican Ash Wednesday service in the mid 16th century as the Church (rather kingly leadership) felt it more important to focus on the Biblical curses God poured out upon sinners—As we remember this was the time of the English Reformation which had begun under the rule of Henry VIII—
All of which was further advanced under the short reign of his young son Edward.

Workshop_of_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Portrait_of_Henry_VIII_-_Google_Art_Project

220px-Portrait_of_Edward_VI_of_England

Eventually customs and “faith” swung back with a vengeance to the Catholic Mass with the installment of Henry’s eldest daughter Mary to the throne. Throughout the English Protestant Reformation the Church preferred to further examine and focus upon the grave sinfulness and unworthiness of man eschewing many of the traditional parts and observations of the Catholic Mass.

Maria_Tudor1

The practice of imposing ashes was officially added back into the service in the 18th century.

One part of the Lenten service which has withstood the test of time and the changing whims of King and Church and is also prominent in the Eastern Orthodox Service has been the reciting of the Miserere, better known as Psalm 51 (or known as Psalm 50 in the numbering of the Greek Septuagint)– One of the penitential psalms of David

In finem. Psalmus David, cum venit ad eum Nathan propheta, quando intravit ad Bethsabee. Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam; et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo munda me. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper.

Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci; ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris. Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in peccatis concepit me mater mea. Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti; incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi. Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor; lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor. Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam, et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis, et omnes iniquitates meas dele. Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis. Ne projicias me a facie tua, et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me. [14] Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui, et spiritu principali confirma me. Docebo iniquos vias tuas, et impii ad te convertentur.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae, et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam. Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam. Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique; holocaustis non delectaberis. Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus; cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies. Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion, ut aedificentur muri Jerusalem.

Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes et holocausta; tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The recitation of the Psalm would be followed with these final prayers. . .

MOST mightie God and mercifull father, which hast compassion of all menne, and hateste nothyng that thou haste made: whiche wouldeste not the deathe of a sinner, but that he shoulde rather turne from sinne and bee saved: mercifully forgeve us oure trespasses, receyve and coumforte us, whiche bee grieved and weried with the burden of our sinne: Thy propertie is to have mercie, to thee onely it apperteineth to forgeve sinnes: spare us therfore, good Lorde, spare thy people whome thou hast redemed. Enter not into judgemente with thy servants, which be vile year the, and miserable sinners: But so turne thy ire from us, which meekly knowlage our vilenes, and truely repent us of our fautes: so make hast to helpe us in this worlde: that wee may ever live with thee in the worlde to come: through Jesus Christe our Lorde.
Amen

TURNE thou us, good Lord, and so shall we be turned: bee favourable (O Lorde) he favourable to thy people, whiche turne to thee in wepyng, fasting and praying: for thou art a mercifull God, full of compassion, long sufferyng, and of a great pietie*. Thou sparest when we deserve punishement, and in thy wrathe thynkest upon mercy. Spare thy people, good Lorde, spare them, and lette not thy heritage bee brought to confusion: Heare us (O Lorde) for thy mercy is great, and after the multitude of thy mercies looke upon us.
(pity in some printings)

Prayers from the Ash Wednesday Lenten Service, Book of Common Prayer 1689

Resiliency

“The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed.
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged — though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

DSCN4340
(tiny little blooms emerging from beneath the leaves and debris of a forest floor / Julie Cook / 2014)

I think that I too know how the flowers felt—or better yet, how the flowers feel.
Who doesn’t seem to know that feeling after this never ending winter?
The winter of our true discontent?!
As I enjoy a sudden greening of the yard and trees, Spring’s warmth however is proving to be deceptively coy.

Today we received flooding rains, again, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. More indicative of a typical February day, not April 7th. The sweaters and coats have not gone very far.

The brave early blooms which were thwarted by our devastating snow and ice storms were the first casualties. Things have been brown, sickly brown, ever since. Fear and sorrow both griped my heart as I surveyed what remained of the yard. What would and would not show forth, once the weather finally cooperated, hung heavy in the back of my mind. We Southerners love our Spring. But then again, who doesn’t love Spring. . .besides those, such as my son, who suffer grievously from allergies, but I digress.

Thankfully the plants and shrubs, which I feared had given up the ghost, are now showing tiny glimpses of life. Ahh, hope does spring eternal—such a nice correlation.

Amazing.

The brown sticks, with dead crunchy blooms, which just a few short weeks ago were giving every indication of being dead and gone, are now showing signs of tiny hopeful little green shoots.

Resiliency.

Despite deep freezes, late ice, never-ending cold winds, life is, joyously, once again emerging from a frozen tomb.

I can remember, several years ago, being deeply distraught over the raging fires that decimated parts of Yellowstone National Park. Lightening being the devastating culprit. We had just visited the park weeks prior to the fires. I watched the news reports with tears in my eyes. The glorious forests and plains, which make Yellowstone the very special place that it is, were being consumed by an unquenchable fire and no man nor all of his technology and power could do anything to stop it . Even the wildlife, which calls the Park home, were often caught with no where to run. Fire’s devastating selfishness, proving so terribly unfair, once again.

And yet, almost miraculously, shortly after the fires were finally quenched, tiny green sprouts could be seen rising up from the burnt forest floor like a thousand tiny Phoenixes rising from the ashes. There is actually a certain tree, which needs the heat of a fire, to jump start its seedlings to the growing process. Nature making certain that she can rebound what had appeared to be total devastation—making certain of the continuation of life.

Again, amazing.

Nature has her healing ways. . .as does the human spirit.

We, as a people, also have a tenacity buried deep within our core which always seems to rise to the occasion. History teaches us this.
A quick lesson regarding the history of Poland, and that of her people, is a wonderful micro lesson to understanding the human spirit’s ability to rebound, reclaim and regrow—and in the case of Poland, a country that has been wiped off the map time and time again, that would be a lesson learned over and over and over again.

When we find ourselves, as we all will at some point during the course of our lives, in the places of loss. . .those places of the loss of hope, loss of life, loss of love, loss of possessions, loss of faith. . .may we be mindful of the lessons on resiliency found in Nature’s ability to rebound and regrow from what appears to be a nothingness—

Yet more importantly may we be mindful that it is from our own devastation that hope is born.
May we be mindful of the sheer determination and tenacity which is buried deep within each one of us.

As we prepare to enter the solemnity of the dark week of the Passion of Jesus, a man who carried all of our losses in his heart, may we deeply contemplate His example of loss and death both of which gave way to hope, resurrection and Life.

“Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon