News, What's On & Information

Dear Friends

February already – and as we celebrate Candlemas (more commonly referred to today with the rather clumsy phrase ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’) on the 2nd February our thoughts turn. We give a last look back to the celebrations of Christmas – 40 days ago – and our attention is now drawn towards Lent, which starts this year at the end of February.

Just before Lent comes Shrove Tuesday – often referred to as Pancake Day or Mardi Gras (derived from the French for Fat Tuesday). Both these latter terms remind us that traditionally on this day all the rich foods left in the house – typified by milk, eggs, sugar and fat - were consumed before the harsh necessities of the Lenten Fast started.

But why Shrove Tuesday? Shrove is an old word – the past tense for ‘shrive’ which similarly is unfamiliar. Referring to the ever-reliable Oxford English Dictionary, shrive is defined as follows:

In Old English - To impose penance upon (a person); hence, to administer absolution to; to hear the confession of.

It was traditional to go to confession in the run-up to Lent, to confess your sins to the priest, who would assign penances (the performance of some act of self-mortification or the undergoing of some penalty as an expression of sorrow for sin or wrongdoing) to be performed during Lent and give absolution.

This tradition is very old. Over 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: ‘In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.’

Not something done very much today in the Church of England – though I’m sure it could be arranged if requested!

So Shrove Tuesday leads to Ash Wednesday. The use of ashes as a sign of penitence goes back to the Old Testament – the prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes", while the prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes"
Christians continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. The public penance that grave sinners underwent before being admitted to Holy Communion just before Easter lasted throughout Lent, on the first day of which they were sprinkled with ashes and dressed in sackcloth. When, towards the end of the first millennium, the discipline of public penance was dropped, the beginning of Lent, seen as a general penitential season, was marked by sprinkling ashes on the heads of all. This practice is found in the Gregorian Sacramentary of the late 8th century. About two centuries later, Ælfric of Eynsham, an Anglo-Saxon abbot, wrote of the rite of strewing ashes on heads at the start of Lent.

Nowadays the ashes, generally made by burning the palm crosses and branches blessed the previous year on Palm Sunday, are ground into a powder and smudged on the forehead in the shape of a cross, with appropriate words.

And so starts Lent – 40 days of fasting, reminding us that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, fasting and being tempted, before starting his ministry. A quick check of a calendar shows that from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day is actually 46 days – but Sundays are always Festivals of the Resurrection so cannot be fasting days! In theory, at least, this means that we could indulge in whatever we have ‘given up’ for Lent on those Sundays – but I find it easier to maintain the discipline, which is but a pale shadow of the serious fasting undertaken by Christians in past years.

And the words used at the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday are a sharp reminder of what Lent should mean to us:-

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Tony King

ST MARK'S

Dear Friends

St Mark’s was once again full to capacity for our Epiphany Carol service on Sunday 12th January. The choir were again in good voice, in spite of the soprano section being a bit thin on the ground. Revd Jane led the service. My thanks go again to Kath’s daughter Shirley for all her yummy cakes, not that I managed to taste one!

There have been no decisions made on our future. The Archdeacon has gone back to the Diocese to assimilate all the findings from the public meeting. Also this will have been discussed at the PCC meeting on 22nd January. So watch this space, as they say.

With all Best wishes

Judith

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Diary for February 2020

 

Sunday 2nd            11.30am Morning Prayer (BCP)

Wednesday 5th     2.30pm Prayer Group meet in the Omega Rooms

Wednesday 12th    2-3.30pm First meeting of the Writer’s group see page 4

Sunday 16th          11.30am Morning Prayer (CW), preceded by coffee in the Omega Rooms

Friday 29th           2.15pm Poetry Group meets in the Omega Rooms.

 

Church opening

St Mark’s church will now only be unlocked on Wednesdays and Fridays.  A notice will be put on the door directing visitors to contact numbers for those who have keys.  If you want to access the church outside these days, please contact the Parish Office.