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Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight between Carnival and Lent

Shrove Tuesday 2022

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight between Carnival and Lent
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Fight between Carnival and Lent

Shrove Tuesday

The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday

“Shrove” is the past tense of the verb “shrive” – “to obtain absolution for oneself by confessing and doing penance”. 

In French this is Mardi Gras – “fat Tuesday” – the feasting before Lenten fasting. A time of “carnival” [The derivation of the word “carnival” is uncertain. Possibly it originates in the Latin carne vale, meaning “to farewell meat” or even “to say goodbye to the flesh”. Others posit that its origin lies in the Italian carne levare, meaning “to remove meat”. The Oxford English Dictionary has that “Carnival” is derived from Latin carnem levare (removal of the meat) or carnem laxare (leaving the meat).]

 In the Northern Hemisphere, it is Springtime, And, I presume that, in order to have chicks, one must leave the eggs with the hen to hatch. You stop eating the eggs during this Northern Hemisphere Springtime, when the days lengthen (the origin of the word “Lent”). Once enough chicks have hatched, they can start eating eggs again at Easter time – the origin of Easter eggs. In the quaint manner of liturgical developments, not eating eggs during Lent means one gets rid of all the eggs before Lent! Hence, the development of Pancake Tuesday – of using up all our eggs by eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

The context of Northern Hemisphere Spring became the frame of Lent. They ate less, because, at this time of year, waiting for harvests, there was less to eat. 

Our contexts are Covid, and in some places war, or other tragedies. What is my appropriate response, your particular response, to prepare, these 40 days, for the the devastation of Good Friday and for the Great News of Easter Day? 

This is the last day of the “Alleluias” until Easter. This day may even involve the burying of the Alleluia.

A hymn for Shrove Tuesday

Alleluia, song of gladness,
hymn of endless joy and praise.
Alleluia is the worship
that celestial voices raise
and, delighting in God’s glory,
sing in heaven’s courts always.

Alleluia, blessed Salem,
home of all our hopes on high.
Alleluia, sing the angels;
Alleluia, saints reply;
but we, for a time on this earth,
chant a simpler melody.

Alleluias we now forfeit
in this holy time of Lent.
Alleluias we relinquish
as we for our sins repent,
trusting always in God’s mercy
and in Love omnipotent.

Blessed Trinity of Glory,
hear your people as we pray.
Grant that we may know the Easter
of the Truth, the Life, the Way,
chanting endless alleluias
in the realms of endless day. Amen.

Can be sung to any tune

From The Saint Helena Breviary, Church Publishing 2006

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