February 03, 2003 Q & A

Shrove Tuesday


Could you please give me a definition of Shrove Tuesday for a project that I am doing at school? Thank you


Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which, for Roman Catholics, is the beginning of Lent (40 days before the traditional Easter -- the resurrection of our Lord). As you may know, Lent is set as a time of fasting and self-denial from foods and other legitimate pleasures. Shrove Tuesday, being the last pre-Lent day, is supposed to serve two purposes: (1) a time for the enjoyment of the pleasures forbidden in Lent, and (2) an opportunity to make confession of sins before the beginning of the 40 holy days.

This does not come naturally to me since I, as an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, feel no obligation even to celebrate Easter. If anything, the Lord's Day is a weekly Easter. ("Easter" is not our favorite word for commemorating the resurrection of Christ since it is taken from the name of a medieval pagan goddess! Most churches in the OPC do observe that day, not out of duty but of choice.)

Another even more basic reason for our non-observance of Lent (and therefore of Shrove Tuesday) is that Lent is supposed to be a time of penance, which in Catholic thinking has the implication of atoning for our sins through self-denial and suffering. But we are convinced from Scripture that Jesus atoned for ALL the sins of his people by his death on the cross. Sorrow for sin is in order any time we sin, but atoning for our sin, in the least sense, is an affront to our Lord who paid for all his people's sin (Romans 3:19-26; 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and Hebrews 7:25).

I recognize that I've given more than you asked, but I feel obliged to bear witness against anything that would detract from the honor of the one and only Savior of mankind. I hope this will be useful to you.



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