Every month a member of the clergy writes a letter to help us reflect upon a contemporary issue of the day from a Christian and biblical perspective. For February, its Andy’s turn, and he focuses upon death and love particularly as Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fall on the same day this year!
This month sees us enter Lent where we observe a time of penitence, reflective soul-searching, and self-examination. And before the rigours of Lent set in, there is the opportunity for a small treat; namely a pre-Lent blow-out on Shrove Tuesday with the eating of pancakes. The roots of this tradition, historically called ‘Shrovetide’, permit the indulgence of soon to be sacrificed fatty foods before commencing the fasting and religious obligations of Lent. The pancake represents a final tasty treat before a time of gastric austerity!
The expression ‘Shrove Tuesday’ comes from the word ‘shrive’ which means to absolve, which in turn means to be declared free from guilt, blame or sin, taken from the Latin word absolvere which means to ‘set free or acquit’. As Christians enter Lent therefore, what we might call ‘Absolution Tuesday’ is a reminder that right from day one (Ash Wednesday) we carry the love of God and his desire to free us from guilt and sin through Lent. Though historically Lent is a period of penitential reflection, it is underpinned by God’s promise of forgiveness and liberation from guilt and shame. We should not emerge from Lent feeling beat up and spiritually morose, but instead, more aware of our frailty, and more aware of God’s deep affection for us, and his power to forgive. Indeed Lent should help us to bring our true selves closer to God, and be more attentive to him.
Back to the pancakes!....Perhaps a lesser known fact is that in Christianity, pancakes have a spiritual and symbolic meaning, referred to as ’the four pillars of the Christian faith’: eggs for creation, flour as the mainstay of the human diet, salt for wholesomeness and milk for purity. So as you tuck into your pancakes, be reminded that God is your creator, and wants to bring about a new creation in you; he provides everything you need for this life (and the next), he seeks to bring you wholeness and a deep sense of well-being, and he wants to purify you from all unrighteousness. So, filled with spiritually symbolic pancakes, followed by a bit of discipline and sacrifice through Lent, may we all grow closer to God, and be open to what he wants to say to us and be ready to receive the gifts he wants to give us, mindful that he has also acquitted us too!