Dear All Saints:
Today is the Last Sunday after Epiphany, a season of the Church year in which Jesus is revealed as God’s son through many signs and wonders. This culminates with his transfiguration on a mountaintop accompanied by his closest disciples.
In the coming week, we will celebrate Shrove Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), a day when, according to tradition, households used up all of their oil, eggs, and dairy which would be given up for Lent. That’s why we eat pancakes or, in some areas, fasnachts or pączki. In Latin cultures, Carnivale is the great festival before the austerity of Lent begins. Call it what you will – Mardi Gras or Carnivale – it’s a big party!
And yet, the word shrove, as in “Shrove Tuesday,” comes from the word shrive which means to absolve. All of the feasting and celebration is to be preceded by visiting one’s confessor (a priest), confessing one’s sins, and receiving the pardon of the Church. In parts of the world, church bells ring to call the faithful to confession on Shrove Tuesday so that people can clear their pantries and feast with a clean conscience, well-prepared for Ash Wednesday and Lent that follows.
I don’t know of any Episcopal churches that are quite so rigorous in their Shrove Tuesday observances. It’s a good reminder, though, that confession and absolution are important acts in the life of faith, as we recognize that we are sinners in need of forgiveness that is God’s to give. So before issuing an invitation to the observance of a Holy Lent on Wednesday, I invite you to take a moment on Tuesday in prayer. Read the Prayer of Confession on page 360 of the Book of Common Prayer, and then come enjoy some pancakes with us at St. Matthew Trinity beginning at 6:00 p.m.!
Shrovetide blessings to you all,