The Skinny on FAT Tuesday
Thousands of people will revel in Mardi Gras celebrations or “Carnival”. Carnival comes from the Latin words meaning “farewell to flesh.” Today is Fat Tuesday the last day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The day is also more popularly known Mardi Gras or less known as Shrove Tuesday. The Shrove coming from the word “shriving” or the confessing of one’s sins and receiving absolution. In the Catholic tradition, a priest pronounces absolution meaning a person is forgiven of their sins and released from the guilt and pain that they have caused them. The tradition is over 1,000 years old. In the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes, a monk recorded:
“In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.”
Lent is the long 40-day journey of abstinence, of giving up anything in our lives that keeps us away from God.
Shrove Tuesday Celebrations
Shrove Tuesday is the last day before Lent, the last day to indulge oneself before the period of fasting and self-denial begins. In the ancient tradition, Catholics would clear out the house of foods that would be forbidden during the Lenten season. Instead of wasting the foods, members of the household would consume the foods on the last day before Ash Wednesday. These forbidden Lenten foods consisted of meat, eggs, fats and dairy products or any foods that would spoil, if not eaten, during the 40 days. Eating these foods on Shrove Tuesday became a familial feast of these items. “Mardi Gras,” the French word for Fat Tuesday, was the day to feast on these fatty foods. An easy dish to prepare that would use up the eggs, fats and dairy and flour, was pancakes. Thus pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday. Many parishes still host a Pancake Supper on Shrove Tuesday.
Mardi Gras Celebrations
Beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday, are celebration before the Lenten season begins. According to Wikipedia, “Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend France’s claim on the territory of Louisiane, which included what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and part of eastern Texas.”
However, today in many American cities, like New Orleans, the Mardi Gras celebrations have gone way past the basic pancake supper to decadent and outrageous displays of debauchery and blatant sinful acts on parade. The overindulgence of food and alcohol or gluttony, have become the norm in modern society on Fat Tuesday. Many non-Christians participate on Fat Tuesday but are nowhere to be found in church the next day of fasting on Ash Wednesday. Excessive eating and drinking can become gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. How many purple, gold and green beads do you have hanging on your mirror from past celebrations? It is not a sin to party and have a fun time, moderation is the key.
Why Less is -More-or Less Today
Instead of feasting in excess today, why not about a “less is more” attitude reflected in both our hearts and minds and stomachs today? Why not, enjoy the yummy pancake dinner tonight, and not eat your heart out, but begin to fill your soul and spirit on the Word made Flesh (John 1:14)? “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:16). Slim down on feeding your flesh and Bulk up on the Word of God, “taste and see that the Lord is GOOD” (Psalm 34:8)! God our Creator made the Earth for our good pleasure. When we seek out the creation over the Creator, our hearts become out of alignment with His plan for our lives. The Bible says,”For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience” (Jeremiah 29:11). You want to live in love and charity towards your neighbor and be a good and faithful Christian. Today is the perfect time to start the reflection process. Here are a few ways, that you can have and live a less is more life:
- Read one chapter of the book of Proverbs each day, corresponding with the day of the month.
- Read one chapter of the book of Psalms each day; also focus on one Psalm for the entire year that corresponds with the age of your next birthday. (For example, if you will turn 43 in November, then start reading Psalm 43 each day. Then after your birthday, begin studying Psalm 44 for the following year.)
- Read one chapter from one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) each day.
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer with your Children before bedtime tonight.
- Give money today a charitable organization that supports widows and orphans.
- Have a pancake supper tonight with your family, reduce the puddle of syrup. Eat and be grateful for the abundance of food items in your pantry.
- Say this PreMeal Prayer: “Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us
to your service, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Say this PostMeal Prayer: “For these and all his mercies, may God’sholy Name be blessed and praised; throughJesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
The Take-Away Message…
Today is day of ancient tradition, celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. But unlike non-Christians, today should have a deep spiritual and physical meaning as we embark on the upcoming 40-day journey to the Cross, Death and Reserrecution of our Lord. Resist the urge to overinduldge on food and drink today, which can lead to gluttony. Instead enjoy the day with your family and begin to prepare your mind and body in a way that is honoring to the Lord. Begin to fill your soul and spirit on the Word made Flesh. Today is more-or-less about cleaning out our houses, both literal and spiritual, having a seat at His Table and feasting on Him.