Before Easter

Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent are three terms describing religious activities that we hear a lot
about at this time of year. Have you ever wondered just what they are and why they are
commemorated? First, let me say that they have no real Biblical background but, even though they are
“man-made” they do point toward a very significant event: Easter.
Lent is a period of fasting and spiritual reflection before Easter. The early church (around 325 at the
Canons of Nicaea) determined that such an observance would be in order. It was soon settled to begin
40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays (so the actual time is 46 days). The fasting would be only
one meal a day and originally forbade eggs, dairy products, oil, and meat and fish. It has been relaxed a
great deal and a lot of people simply choose something they enjoy and “give it up” for Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the day of the beginning of Lent and it is celebrated by a special service where a
priest or pastor marks the forehead of each person with ashes in the shape of a cross. This symbolizes
repentance and reflection. While a person may wipe the ashes off any time after the service, it is
frowned on to do any unnecessary activities the rest of the day (such as going to the movies, grocery
shopping, outdoor activities).
Fat Tuesday (also known as Shrove Tuesday) came into being as a time to do away with all the things
that were forbidden to eat. But rather than just throw them away, people would cook and drink
anything that would become offensive the next day (Ash Wednesday). It soon became a time of excess,
with people doing all kind of rowdy/excessive things because the next 40 days made them un-holy. Fat
Tuesday in French is “Mardi Gras”. Who would have thought that Mardi Gras is a religious observation?
As a pastor I do not stress any of the events before Easter except Maundy Thursday (to commemorate
the Last Supper…I can find that in the Bible). The others are not only the product of mankind, but have
lost much of their intensity and purpose. I recognize Lent as a special time for some but as a time of
repentance and reflection…shouldn’t we do that every day? And choosing to give up one thing in place
of true fasting weakens the personal dedication to the thought of fasting.
But if you choose to personally acknowledge these ceremonies and events, please do. If it is meaningful
to you and helps bring you into a deeper awareness of Jesus by all means, do it. Except Mardi Gras. I
can’t think of any way to make that religious these days.
Say good things about your Savior and about His church here in Bluff Park.