When Ash Wednesday meets St Valentine’s Day – what happens?! A chocolate cross on your forehead? A box of burnt palm leaves as a gift to your loved one? Such a coinciding of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day hasn’t happened since 1945, but whatever you do this year might set a precedence for what is done next time this happens only six years away; and then again eleven years from now.
Let’s start by making sure we understand words the same. Fasting means eating less; abstaining means not eating meat (or another type of food). Some get more specific:
The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom. (III 2)
Some even go so far as to specify the “some food” to be “two smaller meals as long as they don’t add up to another full meal”.
In any case, if you are faithful to Ash Wednesday and take your Valentine out on a date, be prepared to have people remark about the smudge of ash on your foreheads!
I haven’t heard of any (RC) episcopal conferences giving dispensations for this year’s Ash Wednesday just because it falls on the feast of Valentine the martyr.
Some are already being creative about the combination:
Roses are red; violets are blue. Lent is beginning; no chocolate for you.
Won’t you be my valentine you miserable offender.
Remember you are dust, but awefully lovable dust.
[If you think of others – do add them to the comments.]
Here’s the (RC) rules for Ash Wednesday:
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
NZ Anglicans have agreed to
Days of Discipline, Self-Denial and Days of Special Devotion
(i) Ash Wednesday Good Friday
(ii) The other weekdays in Lent
(iii) All the Fridays in the year except those falling between 25 December and 1 January, 6 and 13 January inclusive; and the Friday following after Easter Day and Ascension Day. (A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa page 12)
I’m not sure if there’s any definition of “discipline”, “self-denial”, or “special devotion” [General Synod Te Hinota Whanui got quite concerned a couple of years back that it hadn’t defined the word “authorised” – well here’s your chance to define a few more words.]
The NZ Anglican Lectionary booklet reduces it to “Day of Self-Examination and Special Devotion” – so “Special Devotion” has stayed, but “Discipline” and “Self-Denial” becomes “Special Devotion”. These titles were only added into the Lectionary booklet in 2005. For some unspecified reason, the days immediately following Ash Wednesday are not “Days of Self-Examination and Special Devotion”. That’s new this year. Last year, and previous years, all the days of Lent were “Days of Self-Examination and Special Devotion”.
There was a surprise for me when I was researching for this post: in connecting love, marriage, and Ash Wednesday – of the categories provided, excepting those with no religious affiliation, the least married and most living-together-outside-of-marriage in USA are Roman Catholics. Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday varied significantly, but, more or less, about half of Roman Catholics abstained from meat on the Fridays in Lent.
Ash Wednesday and Lent Resources
Commentary for collect for Ash Wednesday.
What is Lent?
NB. The “Glory to God in the highest” is not used in the Eucharist. The word “Alleluia” is not used at all. There are no flowers in church during Lent.
Lent candle ritual
Lenten preparation (catechumenate)
receiving the Lord’s Prayer (catechumenate)
receiving the creed (catechumenate)
enrolment for baptism (catechumenate)