Thought for the week

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WELL, we’re into the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter.

There’s nothing religious in the term Lent. It’s derived from ‘Lentern’, the Old English word for lengthen: the days are lengthening. It began on Ash Wednesday. The custom is that small palm crosses given out on Palm Sunday, the previous year, are burnt and the ash applied to the forehead.

When I was a child I thought it was ‘Hash’ Wednesday, the day we had hotpot for dinner. This was always after Pancake Tuesday, when we had the fun of sticking tossed pancakes to the ceiling.

Little did I know then about the true meaning of Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday as it should be called. Here is another word that has disappeared from use. To shrive is to confess one’s sins before God and receive forgiveness. So Ash Wednesday marks the start of a period when we resist the temptation to sin. Years ago I visited Rio de Janeiro, famous for its annual ‘Mardi Gras’ festival, the day on which traditionally fattening foods were eaten prior to the days of self-denial. Mardi Gras in Rio is notorious for wild abandon. Yet on a mountain above the city is the Corcovado, a huge statue of Christ, illuminated at night so that it appears like the saviour floating, above the debauch going on down below. God is always ready to forgive our waywardness.

Lent is a time of preparation, to receive to heart Christ crucified and risen for us.

His arms are still outstretched for you in this dark world.