I seem to have a strange compulsion to make Shrove Tuesday somehow relevant. (Nb: WordPress spell check thinks “Shrove” is not a real word.)
I have attempted to explain Shrove Tuesday
I suppose part of my preoccupation with Shrove Tuesday lies in the oddity of the day. It is a peculiar observance, focused around archaic dietary practices and spiritual disciplines that are seldom any longer observed.
But there are themes that lie behind this peculiar day that offer strong guidance towards a deeper and more profound Christian life.
Shrove Tuesday asks us to consider the possibility that in the spiritual life, less may be more.
Lent is preparation for the celebration of Easter. At Easter we affirm that life outlasts physical death. The light is stronger than the dark. There is a power of love and truth that will never die. The deep longing of our hearts is to experience within ourselves that power that raised Jesus from death to life. We yearn for an encounter with the reality of a life that transcends death.
we have this treasure in clay jars. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Both jar and “treasure” are important. We do not denigrate or discard the jar simply because it is a temporary container of the “treasure”. But it is the “treasure” that is of ultimate importance. The treasure is eternal; it is the jar to which we refer when on Ash Wednesday we say,
Remember you are dust
And to dust you shall return.
We cannot create the treasure our temporal jar contains. Like physical life, we can only receive it as a gift. All life is gift. All life is a manifestation of grace, first in temporary form and then ultimately in the eternal formless invisible realm we call “death.”
But we can block our awareness of this transcendent life. We can create barriers to that eternal power our tradition calls love and obstruct the flow of that higher energy that dwells within the forms of all life. We can choose to go to sleep and refuse to see the reality of our lives.
The whole season of Lent which begins the day after Shrove Tuesday with Ash Wednesday invites us to radical self-examination and deep honesty. Lent is a time for taking a look in the mirror and asking serious questions:
What are the attachments to form in my life that hinder my awareness of the eternal realm that is true life?
What obstacles may there be in my life that hinder my freedom to experience the love of Christ that dwells at the heart of all creation?
What patterns, habit, attitudes might be obstacles in my life to the free movement of that love for which I was created?
To what attitudes, habits, thoughts, or emotions am I clinging in a futile attempt to establish in this life some sense of permanence and security?
We ask the questions of Lent, not in order to badger ourselves, or make ourselves feel despicable and inadequate. We ask the questions of Lent in order that our hearts may open more deeply to the power of love that moves in the space that questions create. We do not need to come to any final answers to the questions of Lent. We only need to hold open the space for love to move and to recreate our lives from the inside out.