Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Little History On The Season Of Lent

With the Lenten season approaching on February 26 (Ash Wednesday), I will be sharing some passages, traditions and resources for observing this holy season. I pray you will be encouraged and blessed by the offering.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent lasts for forty days, in imitation of Christ's self imposed exile in the desert at the beginning of His mission. During this time the faithful are expected to give up vices or pleasurable habits, pray and attend mass more frequently, and meditate on the state of their souls. In medieval times people donned sackcloth, smeared their faces with ash and water, flogged themselves and foreswore most food and drink during the Lenten observance. In spite of its severe customs, Lent is a hopeful time. The word comes from the Middle Earth word, lengten or "lengthen", a reference to the fact that the days grow mercifully longer during this time.

Of course, people being people, all of this Lenten-self sacrifice had to be rewarded before it even began. Throughout Europe for three days before the beginning of Lent, businesses closed, streets were blocked off and everyone headed for church, where they went to confession. Afterwards, kegs were tapped, bottles drained, and sweet meats and other foods, soon to be forbidden, were consumed in a bout of wild merrymaking.

Eventually these pre-Lenten revels became concentrated into the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, called Pancake Day, after the sweet pancakes traditionally eaten during the party. In Medieval France where the day was known as mardi gras, or Fat Tuesday, a vast carnival was celebrated during which an enormous ox was paraded through the streets of Paris, surrounded by common folk dressed blasphemously as priests and nuns. The people banged drums and kettles in an unconscious imitation of a Roman triumphal parade. Years later in France's former debauched colony of New Orleans, the party known as Mardi Gras became America's most famous orgy, and a raucous song in the depths of winter. Eventually, however, in New Orleans as in all christian lands, Lent arrives with the grey dawn of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is calculated backwards forty days from Easter. It is so named because on that day Catholics stand before the church alter and receive on their foreheads a smeared cross of ash from the priest. along with an admonition, that in some churches is still whispered in Latin.

Memento, homo, quia pulvis es
et in pulverem reverteris.

(Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust though shalt return.)

The ashes come from a very specific source. On Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, members of the congregation hold palm fronds, in imitation of the crowds who welcomed Christ into Jerusalem. Afterwards the palms are ceremoniously burned, their ashes collected and stored. They reappear the following year on Ash Wednesday, to be daubed on the foreheads of the faithful. The symbolism of Ash Wednesday's is circular, striking and sublime. A year after the Savior's symbolic entrance into the city, the very ashes of the banners once held forth to honor him now prepare the faithful for the season of His crucifixion. 

- from The Dance of Time
by Michael Judge

Before closing I also wanted to bring a few things to your attention.

One, yes, that's my original header now prominent once again. I think I'll slap my hand if I ever venture away from it as I always miss it after making any changes and return to it again and again. I do miss the Canadian geese in my previous header, and I still hope to find a way to incorporate them somewhere, though not in the header. Still, where my father's love was for geese, my husband loves birds and I've learned a great deal about them over the years as a result. The tree with its nest and the two little birds have long been an element of my blog header, including the years when it was known as Life in the Little Nest and chronicled our home school adventures. So to have them remain is a little testament to the memories of the past mixed lovingly with the present and the future. It's a lovely fit.

Second, I've reworked the menu to make things easier for you to find by adding categories, such as The Liturgical Year, and sub-categories such as Advent. The major categories are still linked just below the header, but I've broken things down even further in the menu that you'll find in the left side bar. Clicking on each entry will take you to all the posts I've written on that topic. Last night I went through and eliminated some of the tags I had created because there were too many and it complicated things. I will be reviewing these over the next week or two to make sure it all works as it should, but in the mean time if you come across any problems, please let me know.

And finally, I noticed as I was going through my posts last night that some of the formatting is amiss, which is related more to the color of the text than to the content itself. That being said, you'll still be able to access the information, just be aware that in some posts the text is in several different colors. This is all due to the silly idea I had late last year to bring back the 70's and earth tones instead of staying true to my beloved greens and reds!!!! NEVER AGAIN!  I tried to fix the text in a few of the posts, but for reasons I have yet to discover the formatting still isn't right. Its probably some silly hex code somewhere that is insisting upon rust instead of red! My OCD self, of course, won't abide it, but scrolling through code takes time, so please bear with me! My hope it it bothers you less than it does me!

Until then, have a blessed weekend!

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