Monday, February 20, 2012

Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and Lent: New Beginnings

Mardi Gras mask

Happy Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, day before Ash Wednesday. Eat up all of your candy and junk. In the old days they'd eat up all of the fat and go lean for all of Lent. Now might be a good time to clean out your cupboards and consume the last of the chips and M & M's or toss them out, wash the pantry, and put in new shelf paper. Maybe even get rid of the extra odd sized plate and bowl that you always have to restack to get to the ones you want. Throw out that weird little bag of spices your bought years ago and used once for some forgotten recipe. Start fresh. What a nice way to begin Lent. All fresh and new.
Then comes Ash Wednesday. Now, if you are a lapsed Catholic and you're returning to the Church after some time, as I did some years back, you may be surprised that a few of the prayers in Mass have changed, but don't worry too much. There is most likely a little prayer card (a.k.a. cheat sheet) in the pew. Here, I found this PDF new translation for you, if you want to take a look before you go. But don't fret if you get the responses wrong. Even those of use who've experienced the changes since last Advent still accidently say "And also with you" instead of "And with your spirit" sometimes.
Ash Wednesday in the Navy
Now, about the ashes. You are allowed to get ashes even if you are not able to go to Communion. I remember when I went to Ash Wednesday Mass for the first time in years-- I was afraid to go get ashes. I hadn't been to Confession, and my marriage wasn't valid yet. But I need not have worried.

So, what are you giving up for Lent? Such a common question this time of year. Have you thought back to your New Year's Resolution? Maybe revisiting that will give you some ideas. Maybe, like mine, your parish does a Friday evening Stations of the Cross at Lent. I find it to be a moving meditation on Christ's last hours before his death. What a powerful reminder of how much Jesus loves me.

He clothed himself in flesh for the purpose of having it ripped apart by the lash and hung on a cross so he could die, showing me his love and how much he wants me with him. Gives me resolve to keep up my own silly little Lenten sacrifices like no Facebook or chocolate.

Fast Facts about Lent 2012:
*Lent begins Ash Wednesday Feb. 22 and lasts until Holy Thursday, April 5, when the Triduum begins.
*The pillars of Lenten observances are Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
*Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstaining from meat. There's a limit of one full meal on these days for all people between 18 and 59 years of age. (Unless you're ill or pregnant.)
*All Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat for those who have reached their 14th year. (When I was vegetarian, I chose something else to abstain from since I was already not taking meat, but that was optional.)

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