We are now well and truly into Lent. Ash Wednesday, the first day in Lent, is behind us. Why Ash Wednesday? Ashes, often linked to the wearing of sackcloth in the Old Testament of the Bible, are traditionally a sign of repentance, a sign that we intend to change our selfish or thoughtless ways and that we hope to follow God’s ways. Many Christians go to church to receive on their foreheads a mark of ashes made from the palm crosses which we were given on Palm Sunday the previous year. Palm Sunday this year is 5th April.


The day before Ash Wednesday was Shrove Tuesday, often known as pancake day, traditionally associated with various festivities, such as Carnival in Germany. You can find out more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_in_Germany,_Switzerland_and_Austria . Local traditions include Shrove Tuesday football matches at Alnwick and at Sedgefield.


By contrast, Lent is a period of self-restraint. Many people choose to ‘give up’ something they particularly enjoy – chocolate and alcohol are regular favourites. These are outward signs of our intention to follow Jesus more closely. In former times, people often avoided meat and other animal products – which is why eggs and butter were eaten up on Shrove Tuesday in the form of pancakes.


Here is a short prayer to help us in our self-restraint:


Dear Lord and Father, as we prepare to remember your Son’s death on the cross, may we say sorry for those times when we have let you down and failed to follow his example of love, humility and self-sacrifice. Amen.