Sunday, February 23, 2014

23 February: 2nd Sunday of Shrovetid

The theme for the 2nd Sunday of Shrovetide, in accordance with our Pre-Lenten activities is prayer, or piety.  Piety is a very important in the life of a Christian, and our prayer life, like our study of the Bible will help determine what kind of Christian we are.  Piety, in part is a response to reading the written word, but is also a response to the world around us.

As with studying the Bible, our goal is to improve our Christian life, by starting where we were.  Before we decide what we are going to do for Lent, we need to analyse our lives now, and see where we are.

There are at least two aspects of prayer that are all but forgotten in western Christianity outside of the monastery, silence and fasting.  Silence should be part of our study, and it should be part of our prayer life.  Silence allows us to reflect on our own prayers, and on our readings, and also gives God a chance to talk to us.  In today's modern society, our lives are full on noise, TV, radio, telephones, texting, internet and others, and we rarely take time to reflect.  We suggest that for every minute you spend reading the Bible, your should spend a minute reflecting on what you read.  Likewise, after praying, we should reflect on our prayers and the prayers of others in order to listen to the Lord's voice.   After all, he might expect you to be the answer to someone's prayer.  In addition, before attending church services, and before praying we should take a bit of time in silence to centre our thoughts on Jesus.

Fasting too, as mentioned above is an aspect frequently forgotten in the western church outside of monasteries.  Primitive Christians as near as we can tell fasted every Wednesday and Friday, and in my life time members of the Roman Catholic church fasted from midnight till taking communion. 

How then, should we fast.  Here, we are not quite so much doing an exercise to train us for the future, but something for all of Lent.  Traditionally, Christians did not eat meat during Lent (not counting Sundays, which are feast days).  Shrove Tuesday, also called Fat Tuesday, because that was the day lard was cleaned out of the house (often by making pancakes using the lard), so there would be no meat in the house.  We leave it up to your conscience as to how much you would like to fast for Lent.  We would hope that once the Fifty Days of Easter are over that all would fast or abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

We should also look at other aspects of piety, which should include public prayers, private prayers and prayers with your family.   We would gladly send materials for use in family and private prayers.  Again, look at where your are, and build on that.  If your prayer life is non-existent, then start slow.  Give yourself a chance to succeed.  Too many people lay down a stiff round of daily prayer and are unable to complete it.  Remember, public worship is also very important.  If you are in a church that practices weekly communion, that should be an important part of your day as well.

The success of your Lent, will usually have to do with how much you plan in advance.

Monday, February 17, 2014

1st Sunday of Shrovetide: 16 Februar 2014

Today is the first Sunday of Shrovetide, often know as Septuagesima Sunday, because it is 70 days before Easter.  Shrovetide is still part of the Epiphany season, but we mark the last three Sundays of Epiphany as Shrovetide in preparation for Shrove Tuesday and Lent.  In former times many went to the priest to confess their sins and have absolution pronounced (or to be shriven), and the penance that they kept for Lent was assigned to them at this time.  For some, this penitence was necesary before being admitted to communion for some grievous sin.  Lent was also a  time of preparation for those preparing for baptism.  Shrovetide, then for us is a time to prepare for confession if we so desire, and a time to think about how we would keep a holy Lent.

This first Sunday of Shrovetide, then we look at our study habits.  All Christian study essentially begins and ends with the Bible, which is our chief source of knowledge.  We need to study the Bible on our own and in groups.  The more we know it, the more we can use it as a measuring stick.   But it is very important to read it in groups as well, so as to benefit from thoughts and insights of others.

In addition to the Bible, it is a good thing to also be reading the pre-Nicene fathers.  Especially the Apostolic fathers knew the New Testament and Old Testament in Greek and actually knew the Apostles. (

Also it is good to read the history of the church, from the beginning to now, and it is good to understand the early heresies of the early church such as Gnosticism and Arianism. It isn't a bad idea to learn about your own church and churches in the community around you.   To top it off, there are many how to books for Christians.  Steer away from those promoting the prosperity Gospel (just ask yourself how many apostles died rich men?) and books promoting cheap grace. Yeshua did not die for us to continue on in the same way, but he died that we may be transformed into his image.

As in everything, be looking at how your study habits may be changed, not only for Lent, but after as well.   Many  of my habits regarding Church, began in Lent, but continued on after.  Whatever you do, in study, prayer and apostolic action should be something you are capable of doing.  As in all things, begin with what you already do, and add to it.  Don't make it so difficult that you cannot keep to it

May your Lent help you grow in Messiah.