Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not all Christians celebrate prelude to Easter

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

This time of year is about Lent.
And people are talking about 'giving up' stuff; it could be anything from meat to treats.
Those who follow the tradition know what its about. But to those outside the faith - like the TV host who recently mistook Vice President Joe Biden's ashes for a bruise - the rituals and traditions are a bit of a mystery.
To help explain the yearly occurrence, the Telegram did some research and compiled this list of facts about Lent.
1. Lent is a period of fasting that leads up to the feast of Easter. Meant to show thanks for Christ's sacrifice, the tradition mirrors Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness, as described in Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13. This year, Lent began on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and will continue through Holy Saturday, April 3.
2. The Christian denominations that celebrate Lent include the Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics and Anglicans.
3. During Lent, many Catholics and some from other denominations, choose to abstain from meat on Fridays. Fish is acceptable to eat on fasting days because it's not considered meat, for the Bible defines meat as the 'flesh meat of warm-blooded animals.'
But meat's not the only thing people abstain from during Lent. Others choose to 'give up' their favorite pastimes, candies or beverages for the month.
One Temple couple, for example, opted to disconnect their favorite electronics for the next 40 days.
'We're big escapists,' said Patrick Rogers. 'So I'm not going to play my video games, and my wife Amber is going to stay off Facebook.'
'Yeah, we're going to use that time to focus on God,' Mrs. Rogers said. 'We're not Catholic, but it's nice to take a break from the things that clutter life and remember what Jesus did for us.'
4. Shrove Tuesday (In 2010, Feb. 16) is the day before Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17). It comes from the word 'shriving,' which refers to confession and absolution. Traditionally, this was a day when Christians would confess their sins in preparation for Lent.
Shrove Tuesday is also called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. It is the last day to indulge, party and feast in the items you've resolved to give up for Lent.
5. Ash Wednesday is the day Lent celebrators attend a special church service for prayer. In that service, the church leader will apply a mixture of ashes and consecrated oil to a person's forehead in the sign of the cross. Rooted in the Old Testament, the tradition symbolizes man's penitence and mortality, taking meaning from Genesis 3:19, 'For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.'
6. The 'Shrovetide' is the term for the three days before Ash Wednesday. These are popular days to give confession.
The Sunday can be referred to as Hall Sunday, meaning hallowed or holy Sunday, or Carling Sunday from the European custom of eating parched peas fried in butter (carlings) on this day.
The Monday is Hall Monday or Blue Monday, named so because of the feelings of depression that some people feel as they confess their sins during Shrovetide. For Tuesday, refer to No. 4.
7. Laetare Sunday is the mid-day of Lent. This year it falls on March 14. The tradition is to 'rejoice with Jerusalem.' In Catholic services on this day, the vestments are often rose-colored to symbolize a time of joy. And, traditionally, the Apostles Creed is 'handed over' to those in the catechumens, the last step for those preparing for baptism.
8. Vestment colors worn by priests during Lent, except for Laetare Sunday, are purple or red-violet. The color symbolizes the blood of Christ's sacrifice. The vestments are black for Good Friday, the day Christ was buried.
9. Holy Week is the final week of Lent, immediately preceding Easter. It starts with Palm Sunday. The following Wednesday is known as Spy Wednesday to commemorate the days on which Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before betraying him. And Thursday is known as Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday; it is the day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ and his disciples. It culminates with Good Friday, the day of Christ's Crucifixion and burial.'
10. On Good Friday, the altar is draped in black, also to signify the solemnity of Christ's burial.
Sources: www.newadvent.org, www.catholic.org, www.churchyear.net and www.catholiceducation.org

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