Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ash wednesday

Penitence is a huge part of Catholic culture, and today marks one of our most symbolic rituals of penance. Ash Wednesday heralds the beginning of the season of Lent, the 'forty days and nights' that commemorate Christ's wanderings in the desert.

John St. John Long, 'The Temptation in the Wilderness' (1824)
courtesy of

The day before Ash Wednesday is called Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Shrove Tuesday is the last day of confessing sins before we begin atoning for them (the last day to be shriven, or absolved). Good Catholics are encouraged to finish up all the sweet and fatty food in the pantry so there's nothing in the house to tempt them during the period of self-denial.

In some countries this is also called Pancake Day, and it's become traditional to make a big batch of pancakes, each ingredient representing a pillar of the Christian faith: eggs for creation, milk for purity, flour for sustenance, and salt for wholesomeness. It also incidentally uses up the most tempting ingredients in the kitchen!

Courtesy of Inspired Eats

Ash Wednesday is about three things: repentance, renewal and generosity. The faithful receive ashes from the church, which are made by burning the palms from last year's Palm Sunday. They begin their fasting and meditate on the year's deeds, and then they take the money they saved on food and give it to the less fortunate.

Courtesy of the Esoteric Mystery School

Celebrate the good things in life, be grateful for them, and then put them aside for a short time so we can learn to appreciate them more deeply. Better yet, share some of our wealth with those whose hunger isn't optional. In these challenging times, it's better to look out for each other instead of withdrawing into ourselves.

wander | wonder | women wish us all a blessed Lent!

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