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/

fusion

“To join two things together there must be nothing between them or
there cannot be a perfect fusion.
Now realize that this is how God wants our soul to be,
without any selfish love of ourselves or of others in between,
just as God loves us without anything in between.”

St. Catherine of Siena


(image from the Passion of the Christ)

The word fusion, according to Merriam Webster, is defined as a union by or as if by melting:
such as a: a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole

A merging of diverse, distinct, separate elements—
Merging…as in combining, blending, joining together… a union…
the binding of two pieces in order to become one.

That is what God desires…a fusion of created to Creator.

But this is actually more of a re-union…a re-joining of two who were long ago separated…
for, in the beginning, there was a union… but with man having chosen to defy the Creator…
the union was torn asunder.

Yet as St Catherine of Siena reminds us, God longs to be reunited…He longs for the two to
be fused back together…

However, for the fusion to hold, there can be nothing which exists in between…
there must be nothing.

Not the thinnest, smallest, tiniest or slightest separation…
not any passion, nor desire, nor want…nothing that we think we simply must have
can exist because if it does, we remain separate and not one.

And so as we read below an excerpt from the Catholic Catechism…
whether we be Catholic or not, we read that it is by Christ’s passion…
his sacrifice, his willingness to offer himself in place of our own damned fate
that we are able to be reunited.
He has fused himself to us as we are re-united in “his redemptive Passion.”
As He joins the Father, we in turn re-join the Father…

“Often Jesus asks the sick to believe.
He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing.
The sick try to touch him, ‘for power came forth from him and healed them all’.
And so in the sacraments Christ continues to ‘touch’ us in order to heal us.
Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick,
but he makes their miseries his own:
‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’.
But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God.
They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover.
On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and
took away the ‘sin of the world’, of which illness is only a consequence.
By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering:
it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.”

Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Chruch, pp.1504-05

submission, constancy and perseverance

“You must make a sound and firm resolution to submit yourselves totally to His will and,
with a lively and steadfast faith, to receive from Him what you have to do for love of Him.
And in this (whatever may happen) to persevere with constancy to the very end.”

St. Angela Merici


(from bloom to fruit—patiently we wait for the meyer lemon / Julie Cook / 2018)

Reading this morning’s quote by the 16th century Italian Saint, Angela Merici,
I was struck by two things—
First by the notion of submission to Christ…
not merely belief, but submission…
as in the notion that most 21st century women shutter when they hear the word…submit
as in “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority
of another person.” (Merriam-Webster)

Then secondly I was struck by the idea of
both perseverance and constancy.

That stick-to-it-ness business of pushing through the strain and pain with no waffling,
no ups, no downs….just straight through the middle…

After the death of her parents, Angela and her sister were left as orphans.
And sadly shortly thereafter, Angela’s sister also died, leaving her alone to spend her
childhood living between various extended family members.

One day Angela experienced a vision in which she believed that Jesus had told her to create
an order of chaste women who would, in turn, go on to instruct young girls religiously
as well as in areas of general education.

She became the foundress of what would be known as the order of Ursuline nuns,
originating as an order dedicated to offering poor girls an education.
An education rooted in the Catholic faith but coupled by a general education as well.

Girls were not ones to be afforded formal educations, not unless they came from nobility.
So the idea that “poor” girls were to be given such, speaks a great deal to Sister Angela’s
drive and passion.

So as the prime teacher she was, Angela reminds us that we are to commit soundly,
making a solid resolution…being steadfast in and with our love for Jesus—being
constant as we persevere till our very end…as in never ceasing, never stopping…

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Ephesians 6:18

Hope found in a love that does not seek control

“He is lifted up as a passive victim, so the cross is a sign of desolation.
And he is lifted up in glory, so the cross becomes at the same time a sing of hope.
Suddenly we realize that the glory of God, the divinity of God,
bursts through in Jesus’ passion precisely when he is most victimized.”

Father Henri Nouwen
From Action to Passion
Bread and Wine
Reading for Lent and Easter

RSCN2935
(the blackberries are blooming / Julie Cook / 2016)

Father Henri Nouwen recounts in his reflection From Action to Passion the story of a dear friend who was dying from cancer. This friend, who was in his early 50’s, had been very active his entire life. As an adult he had worked tirelessly as a social activist.
Always doing, always giving…

This once active, constantly moving, individual was now finding himself lost in his illness and the maddening and ever growing frustration of his inability to go, to do, and now simply even to move.
His body weak and ravaged by disease, he was now on the receiving end of constant care by nurses and doctors. He was beginning the downward decent into that dark place of despair…
not knowing how to cope as he was now on the receiving end of life verses the active giving and doing end.

The thought dawned on Fr Nouwen that there were many more like his friend who were suddenly finding themselves at the same crossroads of life…being faced with that haunting question…
“how can I still do?”
Be it illness, accident or age at some point or another we all will be faced with the same challenging question…

Father Nouwen realized that his friend, as well as others, had come to see their self worth based solely in their ability to “do”.
And if they were no longer able to do, then what good were they…

Father Nouwen found his answer, the answer not only for his friend but for all of us, playing out during the final days of Jesus’ life on earth.
It was found in the dark of night, found in the garden of Gethsemane, on the fateful night in which Jesus was handed over to the authorities and arrested on grounds of treason.

It is noted that in the Greek translation of the Bible that Jesus was “handed over.”
Other translations offer the word betrayed…but it is within the phrase “handed over: that we find our answer to our question…

Father Nouwen notes that Jesus’ life can be divided into two very distinct parts and or actions.
The first part of his life and ministry was one of doing..preaching, teaching, traveling, healing..
The second half, and maybe even the most important,
was when he become the recipient or the one who was now “being done to”—
He was now on the receiving end verses the doing end.

His passion in turn became a type of waiting.
Waiting for things to be done to Him…
Waiting for questioning,
Waiting for a trial
Waiting to be flogged
Waiting to be sentenced
Waiting to be executed
Waiting to die
Waiting to rise…
All done with quiet determination, patience and a willingness to wait rather than control the situation.
Whereas Jesus could have easily orchestrated things in His favor, He willingly submitted to “being handed over” and to what all that would entail, even unto death…

So now we all come to see that our life’s vocation(s) can become one of receiving and waiting verses giving and doing.
Yet at the same time we know that there is a very real and difficult relinquishing of this control.
And it is in the ultimate giving of Jesus that we see our own example of action within the waiting and the receiving…

These are hard words to hear for those of us who are active, have found our worth in doing, giving, offering, speaking, teaching, helping…
“How on earth,” we hear ourselves lamenting, “can I be of service, viable, helpful, productive, beneficial, worthy… if I am to become passive, a recipient, a receiver…?”

Yet the answer is found and must be claimed in the Passion of Christ.

To be handed over, willingly…
to relinquish,
to let go,
to let God…

“Into your hands…”
“It is finished…”

We see that it has been a Love freely given…
It is a passionate Love steeped in selflessness
It is a Love that receives as much as it gives
It is a Love that gives of itself rather than seeks control
and it is a patient Love content on waiting

“So together we began to see that in the midst of our suffering and passion,
in the midst of our waiting, we can already experience the resurrection…”

Fr Henri Nouwen

In the blink of an eye

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
Washington Irving

DSC00837
(the fleeting frozen rains from hopefully the last cold snap / Julie Cook / 2015)

And just like that, in a fleeting single blink of an eye,
the triumphant joy ceases.
The crowds have quickly lost their jovial revelry.
Things are taking a turn–yet what sort of turn is yet to be seen.
There is a subtle shift in the winds.
Deep dark whispers now drift along the alleyways, replacing the recent laughter and jubilation.
A few dried palm branches are trampled underfoot, unnoticed.

What is passion?
Is it intensity?
Is it a feeling of indescribable and voracious love, longing, desire?
It is a consuming flame within the very core of one’s being, psyche, soul, heart?
Is it with or without control?
Is it with or without pain?

Groups of men are seen huddled together.
Any observer can note the seriousness of their conversations.
There is a hurriedness in the steps of those more official looking individuals.
Even the animals sense the change.
All are now anxious, fretful, nervous. . .
The sky grows dark, a storm seems to be brewing.

Is grief anticipatory?
Can sorrow be foretold?
Is the heart warned before breaking?
What of fear and anger verses hope and love?
Is one greater than the other?
Does love trump all other emotions?
Can one be broken hearted and full of love simultaneously?

Paranoia gives way to determination,
As a final solution is now at hand.
Selfishness, greed, control, swirl into a toxic mixture of treachery
A pigeon is found and a mole is set loose as the silver is gathered.
There are those who rub their hands together in twisted satisfaction as
there are those who wring their hands with foreboding and trepidation

Sorrow and love are now woven as one
There is no turning back as the die has been cast
The sequence of events is no longer reversible.
The truth of the matter is. . .they never were.
This pivotal moment was determined eons ago
Everyone has had a hand in it.

There is but one lone figure who has remained very far removed,
yet it is he who has watched this all unfold, generation after generation.
He stands in solitude perched somewhere between space and time, watching, waiting yet knowing
A single tear is seen to fall.
It is now left to time, which is all that remains separating. . .
what was
what is
and
what will be. . .

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

The tale of the passion of the tiny old woman

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
Albert Einstein

DSCN2973
(crystal stoppers, Julie Cook / 2014)

Passion and indifference–two polar opposite emotions, stances, choices, feelings. . .the excess of or the lack of an internal drive.

Both can be quite dangerous.

One can bring about something positive or something quite negative, depending on the drive and focus. The latter can also bring about change—but often sadly so. . .
Both can be quite frustrating—for both the owner of and the recipient of.

Yet, Big things come in small packages.

There once was a tiny young girl named Agnes who prayed very hard that she may grow up to one day do big things for the very big God of her heart.
The God of all gods answered the tiny girl’s prayer.
He told her what she was to do.
She got busy.
This was her passion.

Time passed.

The tiny girl grew up becoming a tiny woman. She worked hard doing the big things for the big God of her heart.
Frustrated her work just didn’t seem to be enough she decided she needed to do more. Her passion was so great that she imagined her work must be greater— as the need of those she worked to help was greatest.
She wanted to do more.
Bigger things for the big God of her heart.
So she prayed really hard once again, asking to do more things, really big things for this very big God of her heart.
He spoke again.
She got busy.

Time passed.

The tiny woman grew to be a tiny old woman.
She had spent her entire life doing big things for the big God of her heart.
She was so busy, she never thought of herself. There was simply no time for self.
She never asked anyone to do anything that she had not already done herself.
There were just so many who needed so much that she had to work so very hard. So very many people were in such great need that it was almost over whelming. The tiny old woman worked non stop as she knew that this was what she had prayed for and that the big God of her heart had answered her prayer.

Sadly however, to the tiny old woman, the very big God of her heart had now remained silent for such a very long time. She had not heard from Him since her last really big prayer. But it didn’t matter, she still had big things to do for the big God of her heart.
She thought that if she was not doing the right things then He would certainly say something. Obviously His silence was an indication of her doing the right things.

Time passed.

The tiny old woman now grew to be a tiny frail sickly old woman.
She continued working, doing the big things she had asked to be able to do, but inwardly she worried.
Why was the big God of her heart so silent for so long?
No matter.
There was still so very much to do.

And so the story went—until one day the tiny frail old woman closed her eyes for the final time.

She had lived a very long life doing those big things for the big God of her heart.
She had worries of the heart but never allowed them to distract her focus of the big things for the big God of her heart. She had doubts and questions but no one but the tiny old woman knew of these doubts and worries—no one but herself and the big God of her heart.

There was never the concern for self. Never vying for a stance of “I’m right, you’re wrong”. No vacations, no shopping sprees, no finding of one’s self. No indifference. Instead there was simply the passion of the big work for the big God of one’s heart.

When the tiny young girl named Agnes was 18 years old, she changed her name. She had entered the religious order of the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland. As a young girl she had greatly admired the young saint known as the little flower–Thérèse de Lisieux. Agnes also admired the spanish mystic nun St Teresa of Avila.

Both of these women were considered to be giants of the Church. Each had worked to do big things for the big God of their hearts. One did so quietly, the other was much more bold. Young Agnes simply wanted to do the same–daring to do big and perhaps bold things. Not because she wanted fame. Not because she wanted the world to notice–though the world would eventually notice, she just wanted so much to do something important for the big God of her heart. Doing big things for the big God of her heart was simply the most important thing–there was no indifference–young Agnes was simply full of passion.

Time passed.

Pieces of the world are now better for all of the work of the tiny young Agnes who grew to be a giant of a tiny old woman. And it all came about simply because of a tiny young girl who had a big desire to do really big things for the very big God of her heart. So it matters not if you are big or small, rich or poor, highly educated or not—it only matters if you have passion, and if that passion is genuinely set upon doing the big things for the big God of your heart. There is really still so very much to be done, it’s all just a matter of passion.

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(painting by Julie Cook)