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February 28, 2006

Shrove Tuesday

Ever wondered where the tradition of having pancakes (or crepes if you prefer the French version) originates? There are several explanations for it, but, being a pragmatist the one I think is probably closest to the truth is that, it being quite lkate in the winter season, flour stocks would be starting to run low. Remember that it is really only in the last two hundred years that we have been able to stockpile essential food supplies in sufficient quantities to ensure a steady supply of wheat for flour through out the year.

Making pancakes instead of bread for the next six weeks probably served a dual purpose - you were able to observe the "fast" and conserve the floiur stock in the family store.

Shrove Tuesday marks the last "ordinary" day before the beginning of Lent, a "fast" of obligation for all Christian's, although these days it is more usually a case of "giving something up" for Lent, rather than a full blown "fast". In medieval times it was common for many to forgo any meat, fish or fowl and subsist only on gruel or a diet of vegetables. Sunday's however, are "feast" days all year round, so the "fast" could be broken on a Sunday without penalty. In many countries the "fast" was observed in much the same way that a Muslim would observe Ramadan, that is by abstaining from food during the day, then eating a full meal in the evening. However it was done, it was also usual to attend the Confessional before the commencement of Lent and then to serve your penance during the fast. Hence the name of the last "ordinary" day - "Shrove" Tuesday means literally that the penitential have been "Shriven", or granted conditional absolution for their sins.

Lent, for many in this day and age, is less a "fast" and more an opportunity to do something positive, such as attend a lecture series, read a new theological book or attempt to "take up" something which benefits us and the community we work in in a positive way. Whichever way you do it, remember that it is a commemoration of Our Saviour's own fast in the desert before commencing his ministry, and that it is an opportunity to consider the implications of the final days of his ministry as we prepare to celebrate His resurrection from the tomb.

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 28, 2006 10:43 PM

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