Monday, February 27, 2006
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday" for us non-francophones. In the Christian West, it is the last day before Lent, and, in traditionally Catholic countries, a last chance for indulgence of the flesh before Ash Wednesday reminds us by imposition of ashes that our flesh is but dust and our life a thing of a moment in the face of eternity. In the Christian East we are also preparing for Lent, but in a far less colorful fashion. This past Sunday we commemorated the Last Judgment and began a fast from meat. The Sunday to come is Forgiveness Sunday and is the last day we eat dairy products before the Great Fast of Lent begins in full. (Which is why it is sometimes called "Cheesefare Sunday.") We ease gradually into the rigors of the Fast, with no convenient stopping point for one last hurrah. "Fat Tuesday" is an invitation to party. "Cheesefare Sunday" doesn't quite have the same ring and "Last Chance For Cheese!" would make a poor rallying cry for a good Bacchanal. While food choice is the most obvious part of the season, Great Lent is about far more than just going vegan for a few weeks. As we go through the fast I will try from time to time to put down a few thoughts about the inner meaning of the season. In the meantime, the webmaster at Monachos.net has put together a fine collection of resources for Great Lent which I would commend to the curious, either Eastern or Western.