Ash Wednesday falls on 2 March 2022 with Good Friday coming on 15 April 2022. Both dates are serious occasions of fasting and abstinence, framing a season of the same we call Lent. Festive Shrove Tuesday blowouts before Ash Wednesday and an Easter Vigil celebration of the Resurrection contrast feasting and fasting, framing again the fast with the feast. Every observing Roman Catholic will be thinking either what will they give up, or what work of mercy will they take up for Lent, giving up their own way by surrender in order to join the eternal feast.
Even lapsed Catholics and those of no faith may contemplate using the six weeks or forty days of Lent to maybe take up a health, diet or fitness programme to improve some aspect of their life. For Christians, it is a practical exercise in imitation of the Christ who spent forty days in fasting and prayer after his baptism in the Jordan. A period of preparation before commencing his ministry leading to Crucifixion and Resurrection. It is a time to get fit, physically, mentally, but mostly spiritually for Roman Catholics.
Lent is the ‘lengthening’ days of Spring. Anyone like me, with West Indian, French or Irish friends and family – and some other places – say, Lentening rather than Lengthening. Pagans of Christian times and pre-Christian times would have Christians believe that Eostre or Easter was theirs first. Hebrews would beg to differ. Eostre is the Pagan Germanic Goddess of Spring from which we get the word Easter – it has its own long history. It seems two separate cultures are united in a common recognition of Spring. No surprise, that is when sowing for summer food begins and the winter crops are harvested as first food. Each culture marks the meterological season of Spring the harbinger of food and life, universal features of human experience.
Hebrew calendars would tell you the fourteenth day of Nisan was the coming full moon of the first month of the Hebrew year. The first fruits of the barley harvest thanking God for fruit of the land, praying for the Summer harvest, especially wheat. It is also the day of the Slaughter of the Lamb whose blood was spread on the door lintels of Hebrew houses. That same blood was a sign to the Angel of Death to pass over and not to kill the Hebrew Firstborn in the final Plague on Egypt. Those not Hebrew had their firstborn slaughtered by the Angel of Death. It is the same Passover celebrated by Christ that commences the Christian Triduum to give Christians the Eucharist. The Eucharistic Seder or Passover Meal is the reason Christ can be reliably placed for his arrest, Passion and Crucifixion. Spy Wednesday, the last Wednesday before Easter, the Iscariot agrees to betray the Christ and the time is set for after the Passover meal which he knows Christ and his Apostles will celebrate at a fixed time, as would all Jews of those days.
Christ is the perfect Spring Lamb slaughtered so that His Blood saves His people from death and liberates to perfect eternal life by enduring love of God. For that, we make ourselves ready for a lengthening of days into eternal bliss.
Lenten Blessings! Ave Regina Caelorum
Alanna-Michelle, North West Fraternal Group