Monday, February 15, 2010

Mardi Gras, Lent & Self-Denial

While speaking with a loved one last year, I was explaining the season of Lent and Mardi Gras. They asked, "Now, is Fat Tuesday right before Mardis Gras?" Perhaps you might also have some questions on this matter so here's the Cliff notes version on the season...

Lent is a 40-day season of focused prayer, repentance and fasting that takes place each year before Easter, the Sunday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The forty days represent the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness immediately preceding the launch of His public ministry. Christians around the world have celebrated this season for a number of centuries.

For those of us in the West, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. On Ash Wednesday, worshippers have ashes rubbed on their forehead in the shape of a cross. This is to represent "repentance" -- or the turning from self to God -- during the Lenten season. During the season of Lent, Christians are expected to fast. It could be fasting from food completely or just meat or, in recent years, some have chosen other items like candy, caffeine or even forms of technology, like television or the Internet. Technically, Lent lasts more than 40 days since Sundays were originally a day when one could indulge in whatever was being denied since it is the Lord's Day.

The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday or "Shrove" Tuesday (or in the French language, Mardi Gras). Carnivale (which means "away with meat") is an extended festival before Lent that is commonly found in Roman Catholic societies. These are times of celebration and feasting before the entrance into the fasting period. This year, Fat Tuesday takes place tomorrow, February 16th, with Ash Wednesday falling the following day on February 17th. Easter Sunday falls on April 4th.

For those of us that are Protestant Christians, the observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent is usually dismissed since many regard those as Catholic holy days. But I think that all Christians can appropriately recognize this season. For a number of years, I have participated in the Lenten season and have found it beneficial. It can be a time of dedicated Bible study, prayer, some sort of fasting and repentance and can be great preparation in leading up to the remembrance of the most significant event in world history, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

In tomorrow's post I will share what the Lord has led me to do for Lent this year. It might be surprising for you and I hope that you'll consider joining me.

Whatever you might choose to do or not do during this season, I trust that your focus will be on the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. Entering into a time of self-denial and focus on Jesus can help in leading us to a place of maturity where we are more committed to Him throughout the year, whether it is a designated holiday or not. God bless.

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