"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pass the Pancakes, Please!

When my 3-year-old grandson was visiting recently, I asked him what he wanted for breakfast. 


"Well, would you rather have pancakes or go to Chick-fil-a?" (Which has become my husband's and my Saturday ritual.)


And so I prepared blueberry pancakes.

That evening, I questioned him again. What would you like for supper tonight? 


Really??? What's up with pancakes?

Well, for a 3-year-old, it's just that he likes pancakes. (Or the syrup I put on his plate for dipping.) But for the rest of us, it could be that it's Shrove Tuesday and, traditionally, a night set aside for pancakes.

Shrove Tuesday occurs on the day prior to Ash Wednesday and is a time when many Christians make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God's help in dealing with. However, for many, it is seen less as a day of repentance and more for celebration and feasting before the period of fasting required during the Lenten season arrives. I can highly relate to this as on more than one occasion, I have "celebrated" my impending diet with an Arby's roast beef sandwich, curly fries and a Jamoca shake as my "last meal." But I digress.

To shrive means "to confess and receive absolution." It denotes a period of cleansing, "wherein a person brings their lusts and appetites under subjection through abstention and self-sacrifice," a concept based on 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says he buffets his body and makes it his slave. But if anyone knows anything about Shrove Tuesday, they know that this "cleansing" has turned into a day of frivolity and great indulgence where people participate in as much pleasure and self-gratification as they can before Lent begins.

Shrove Tuesday actually had its beginning during the Middle Ages when foods like meats, fats, eggs, milk, and fish were restricted during Lent. In order to keep such items from being wasted, big feasts were held on Shrove Tuesday in order to rid their pantries of those items that would inevitably spoil during the next forty days. The thrifty English housewives were the ones who came about the tradition of eating pancakes as a way to use as much milk, fats, and eggs as possible before Ash Wednesday began.  But it was the French who would coin the name "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras: Mardi=Tuesday; gras=fat. (It actually began as a three-day celebration, but because of all the public debauchery and carousing that became a part of the tradition, somewhere in the early 20th century, the Church restricted the observance to a single day.)

And so today, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated in all manner of ways. Long parades. Elaborate costumes. Flamboyant masks. Practical jokes. Overeating. Too much drinking. Fortune telling. Samba dancing. And, of course, pancakes. It seems the day has bowed to superficiality, unrestraint and self-indulgence.

It's easy to be caught up; but let us not be so carried away by these "carnival" activities that we forget the significance of this day: a time for examination, for repenting and for making amends.

And maybe even some pancakes.

Just an ordinary Lenten moment...

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