My Husband "Subvet" says that when our first son "Sonshine" was born the sun rose on our world, when our second son "Gator" was born the sun laughed and when our daughter "Sugars" was born all the flowers bloomed. That says it all.

"Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass...
It's about learning how to dance in the rain."

Your mind is the garden, your
thoughts are the seeds, the harvest can either be flowers or weeds. — William

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras

I've been asked to explain these two celebrations. (scroll down for my Goal Post)

First off, neither of them are "Catholic traditions". Just like Lent they are Christian and come from Biblical origins. --Well, Ash Wednesday does anyway, Mardi Gras is a reaction to Ash Wednesday...but we'll get there later--

Protestant churches celebrate Ash Wednesday also, for example, all the Methodist churches I've been to as an adult had an Ash Wednesday service with the placing of ashes on the forehead in the shape of a cross.

To help understand Ash Wednesday I will take a couple quotes from this very good article that my Subvet found for me. (Thanks Hon!) This article was written by Fr. Saunders and I encourage you to go and read the whole thing for a more detailed history of Ash Wednesday.

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls and a professor of catechetics and theology at Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria.

Copyright ©2005 Arlington Catholic Herald. All rights reserved.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. Which is to say, it's the celebration that marks the beginning of our time of fasting and sacrifice known as Lent. As we move from "business as usual" into our time of remembering Jesus' sacrifice for us we also remember how we are undeserving of that sacrifice because of our sin.

The use of ashes originates in Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. You can see them used in Book of Esther by Mordicai, also by Job, Daniel and the people of Nineveh (after Jonah finally showed up).

Since the Middle Ages at least, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins.

In our present Ash Wednesday liturgy [service] , we use ashes made from burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, "Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return," or "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven. In essence, we die to ourselves, and rise to a new life in Christ.

You know, the whole "ashes to ashes, dust to dust"...which, by the way is scripture. See Genesis 3:19.

Knowing that Lent was a time of solmness, remembrance, and fasting, folks started having a huge feast on the night before Lent began. Which would be the night before Ash Wednesday. The reason was two-fold. Back in the day meat was forbidden during ALL of Lent, not just on Fridays and this was before refrigeration/deep freezers folks. So here we are...Lent's around the corner and we won't be able to eat meat for 40 days........ what are we gonna do with all this food in our kitchen? PARTY!! Invite the neighbors and let's chow down. And since I'm giving up chocolate for Lent I think I'll bake a huge chocolate cake to eat too!!

I don't know if it originated in Louisana or if New Orleans is just the biggest group of partiers. But this pre-Lent celebration came to be known as "Mardi Gras" which literally translates to "Fat Tuesday". Meaning you got as "fat" as you could on the Tuesday before the fast would begin on Ash Wednesday.

I'm not positive but I believe a lot of the breast baring and kissing of strangers etc is an outgrowth of people getting their last kicks in before Lent too. Oh, and alcohol plays a big part in any Louisana party. Remember too that South La has a very large Creole population, whose origins are in the Carribean. They brought their native religion (voodoo etc) with them and incorporated it into the Christian celebrations of the "New World". (as did all native peoples worldwide when Christianity was introduced). Some of the "traditions" of Mardi Gras have been derived from this pagan influence.

Today it has blown out of all proportion and reason and has become a totally secular event. I actually think there are parties and such that continue even AFTER Ash Wednesday...completely missing the point of the original celebration. I do know that the parades start a couple weeks before Ash Wednesday and the drunkenness rivals any Spring Break. I've never been to N.O. for Mardi Gras and I never plan to go. But my family and friends who have gone came back with quite a few entertaining say the least.

If you have any questions or any corrections or additions to this please leave them in the comments. If there's something you don't believe or want to discuss go ahead and leave that in the comment too. But please remember to be respectful of me and of each other during the discussion!


HalfCrazy said...

I actually didn't have any priest put a cross on my forehead. I think the tradition is fading away, I only saw a handful of people with crosses in their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. Even our school didn't have priests available for marking our foreheads.

Also, I don't follow the "Don't eat meat thing." If I'm not gonna eat meat, I might as well starve as I am not a lover of vegetables LOL! IMHO, nothing's gonna happen if people eat meat or not.

Much Love,

MightyMom said...

that might be true in the Philipines, but here the practice is still very much followed by Protestants and Catholics alike. as is the sacrificing and fasting for Lent.

Lori in South Dakota said...

Guess that means no Red Lobster on Fridays--just fasting and penance!

diana said...

thank you, mighty mom. very informative.

there was a lot i didn't know, like not eating meat during lent or it changing to just fridays.

i grew up in small non-denominational churches so i really thought the whole ash thing was just catholic. thanks again.

MightyMom said...

seafood is allowed. just not mammal meat. believe me...I asked!! :-) lobster dinner every friday in Lent doesn't sound much like a fast though....................................

Linda said...

Alright then, so what is the meaning behind not eating meat? I can understand the reflection, remembrance, and pennance and all but why single out meat as not to be eaten? Is there a religious significance behind this? Is it because Jesus didn't have meat while He was in the desert for 40 days? If that's the case, chances are real good He didn't have much of anything at all - not just meat.