We are now almost a week into Lent. This year it started on Ash Wednesday (March 6th) which was the day after Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day). Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter.
Traditionally many Christians around the world fast during the days of Lent. Generally for 40 days. The six Sundays during this period are not classed as fast days. The Lent fast is observed predominantly amongst the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican denominations. Although Christians of other denominations also observe a fast during this time. The 40 days of fasting represent Christ’s 40 day fast in the wilderness immediately after His baptism (Matthew chapter 3 verse 16 to Matthew chapter 4 verse 2).
Traditionally many different types of food have been given up for Lent, e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milky food. On Shrove Tuesday they were all cooked and eaten so they wouldn’t be wasted during the fast. Eventually flour was added to the mix, and pancakes came into being (Pancake Day). Some Christians completely fast from all food during this period however the majority tend to fast from certain foods, luxuries or habits. Foods would include meat, convenience foods, cakes & sweets etc. Luxuries would include abstaining from Social Media, watching tv, playing on xboxes etc. Habits would include abstaining from cigarettes & alcohol etc. Christians fast or abstain to help focus their thoughts, prayers and lifestyle in the days leading up to Easter when the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is remembered and celebrated.
Shrove Tuesday is so named because the word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to get absolution for one’s sins by confessing them and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent for Western Christian churches. It’s a day of penitence to cleanse the soul before the Lent fast. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and some other denominations hold special services at which worshippers are marked with ashes as a symbol of death and sorrow for sin. Usually in the form of a cross on the forehead. The ashes used are often from the burnt palm crosses used on the previous years Palm Sunday.
However, there is no Biblical directive regarding Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday or Lent which is why there are many Christians who do not observe these practices. It is not a Biblical mandate to observe Lent but if it helps to concentrate your mind and soul on your actions and Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection then keep on keeping on. It is always good to examine oneself and to keep short accounts in order to keep close to Jesus and His ways:-
1 John chapter 1 verses 8-10; If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Ephesians chapter 4 verses 26-27; be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Whether or not you observe Lent do all things unto Christ because of:-
1 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 6; for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
Bible verses taken from the ESV