Good morning. There are no prizes for guessing what I’m going to be eating for my supper this Shrove Tuesday. Most people call it, ‘Pancake Day’, and that rather gives it away! The two names focus on different sides of the Christian tradition on this day before the solemn season of Lent begins.
‘Shrove Tuesday’ is about being absolved –shriven - by confessing our sins and resolving to live a holy life from now on. We’ve cleared away what muddied the waters so that we can draw closer to God. As for ‘Pancake Day’- well that’s also about cleaning things out: emptying the kitchen shelves of indulgent foodstuffs, ready for the weeks of fasting to prepare for Easter.
Mind you, that’s a very modest last fling compared with the way they go about things in Latin American countries! There it’s called ‘Mardi Gras’, ‘Fat Tuesday’, and for them it’s all the sound and colour of carnival rather than settling down to toss pancakes. But the principle is the same: a rhythm of life. There are high days and holidays, and there are times of stillness in between.
It’s not simply that life is full of ups and downs, but rather a pattern where times of joy and sorrow each shape and interpret the other. Being quiet and introspective now enables us to celebrate and sing later. The book of Ecclesiastes puts it like this: ‘For everything there is a season. A time to be born, and a time to die...a time to weep and a time to laugh.’
With that in mind, I shall enjoy my pancakes tonight; and equally, look forward to a thoughtful, prayerful Lent.
Eternal God, help us to live our lives wisely, to make time for you in the work you would have us to do; to make time for others in their joys and in their sorrows; and to make time for ourselves that we may grow in holiness, knowing that there is a time for every matter under heaven. Amen.