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Shrove Tuesday / Ash Wednesday

posted 21 Feb 2009, 15:13 by St Lawrence C of E Church   [ updated 21 Feb 2009, 15:41 ]

The image in the banner is linked to Shrove Tuesday and depicts pancake racing at Olney (Circa 1950s, but more on this in a bit). The quote 'Man does not live on bread alone.' is in fact a quote from Jesus and can be found in Luke chapter 4 v1-13:

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread. Jesus answered, It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.' The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours. Jesus answered, It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' Jesus answered, It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time."

Now that is food for thought, which brings me back to pancakes. This Tuesday is, of course, Shrove Tuesday and pancakes will be foremost in most peoples thoughts. Ash Wednesday also occurs this week, but why are these days named so? Below are some answers.

Shrove Tuesday

The name Shrove comes from the old word "shrive" which means to confess. On Shrove Tuesday, in the Middle Ages, people used to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began.

The origins of eating pancakes arose from Christians who observe Lent and wanted to use up all the rich foods in their cupboards before Lent. During Lent eggs, sugar and butter were not allowed so these ingredients were used to make pancakes.

More than a hundred years ago, Shrove Tuesday used to be a half-day holiday. A church bell, called the 'Shriving Bell', would have been rung signalling the start of the holiday and to call people to church to confess their sins. The church bell was rung at eleven or twelve o'clock in the morning, as a signal to housewives to start frying the traditional pancakes.

Pancake Racing

Pancake racing is said to have originated in the town of Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife was still busy frying pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the bells of St Peter and St Paul's Church calling her to the Shriving Service. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with pancake, and still wearing her apron and headscarf!

Now every year, in Olney, local housewives compete in a 415yard dash, tossing pancakes, wearing skirts, aprons and headscarves. The winner is greeted with a kiss of peace from the verger. The race is immediately followed by a Shriving service in the Parish Church.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday are burned. The ashes are used (sometimes mixed with oil to a paste) by the priest who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his or her own forehead and then on each of those present who kneel before him/her at the altar rail. As s/he does so, s/he recites the words: "Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
On a lighter note, I leave you with a quote from John. C. Maxwell:
"Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up."