It’s the time for Lent already. Today is Ash Wednesday, and though I will try to catch a service while I swing through London today, I doubt I will start Lent in the traditional manner.
Apparently yesterday was “International Pancake Day” according to IHOP (International House of Pancakes), and I felt a mixture of emotions as a national chain capitalized on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. The reason many people eat pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday is because Lent is supposed to be a lean season. Thus, families needed to use up the extra lard and flour and eggs and that sort of thing before Lent began — and the easiest way to do that was to make pancakes. Loads of them. This is the same reasoning behind Mardi Gras — party now, because you won’t be able to party again until after Easter. Lent is a period of fasting, of spiritual discipline and reflection, a penitential season. Part of me is always bemused to find people celebrating Mardi Gras when they don’t recognize Lent. But then, people will take any excuse to party.
And yet, even I will not be observing Lent in the usual way. Those who know me know that it is far too easy for me to engage in self-flagellation, self-abnegation, regardless of the time of year. I have been prescribed rest and compassion for myself. I have had various people insist that I take the next few weeks, if not months, to be gentle with myself, to show myself kindness and grace. For me, this cannot be a time of fasting or self-denial. This needs to be a time of healing, of discovering the things that bring me comfort and embracing them.
So if I do not make it to an Ash Wednesday service, that is fine. I do not need to be reminded that I am dust; rather, I need reminding that out of the dust a seed is sprouting, growing, alive.