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Have You Been Shriven?

“The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Maybe, as you read this, you’ve just begun your observation of Lent. Or maybe not.

As I write, it’s still Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. People in New Orleans are nearing the end of their Shrove Tuesday — “Fat Tuesday,” as they call it, or Mardi Gras. Their wild celebrations of excess — all part of Carnival — are about to come to a crashing end.

If you’re from a Christian background, these days might have some meaning for you: Lent is the 40 days when “adherents” make some form of sacrifice in their lives. For example, give up booze, give up meat or fat, give up smoking. 1

Shrove Tuesday vs. Lent

Shrove Tuesday is supposed to be a last-minute blow-out, a final indulgence in various sins — mortal and venal — before the long period of Lenten sacrifice.

From childhood, an English friend of mine used to talk excitedly of “Pancake Tuesday,” referring to the old tradition of using up all the eggs and fats in the house before Lent began. Pancakes were the perfect way of using them all at once and were a custom in London where he was from.

“Cor! Pancake Tuesday!” he’d enthuse. “You wouldn’t believe it!”

It was all about pancakes to him, not the fact that it was Shrove Tuesday. He was overjoyed to have emigrated to Canada, where you could eat pancakes every day if you wanted. Not just at a parish church function the day before Lent.

The “shrove” in Shrove Tuesday is the past tense of the verb, to shrive. It’s mainly a Catholic reference to confession: confessing sins and receiving absolution from a priest. A kind of purification.

The past participle of shrive is “shriven.”

Have you been shriven?

Much later in life, a different friend used to greet us with “Have you been shriven?” before we entered his house. He was a fierce atheist and particularly anti-Catholic. Or at least he claimed to be. The joke got rather tired after a few times.

I’d had almost no exposure to Lent until about 20 years ago. I was under the impression it was an obscure liturgical feature of the Catholic mass. But a Catholic friend demystified it for me, explaining that he simply turned off the TV for six weeks. His wife stopped eating chocolate.

It took him out of his comfort zone: allowed more time to think about God … or more important matters than the evening Netflix choice. Instead, he might spend his time walking the dog, reconnecting with neighbours, and reaching out to loved ones. The practice encouraged introspection about his life, he explained. What does he value? How could he live better?

Something believers and non-believers

Lent is supposed to be a symbolic purification that has origins in religion. I’m not a “believer” per se, but this kind of practice can be meaningful for all sorts of secular reasons. Still, it might also make us aware of the broader dimensions in our everyday lives.

What am I attached to? Are there things in my life that are unhealthy or excessive? What distracts me from a cleaner, more grounded life? And what would it mean if I gave up some of those indulgences?

These are universal questions that any person might ask if they wish to improve their life somehow. Or move forward.

These habits are usually distractions like smoke screens for things that may be more important in life. Maybe taking a break from these distractions — even for a short while — help us see clearer.

And beginning this 40-day project just before the rites of Spring (Easter) might be the best of all times to do it. Spring is the time of renewal. The earth is warming, there are buds on the trees, animals emerge from hibernation. We can reflect on what we’ve learned feel gratitude for the things that matter in our lives. And take this new wisdom with us into the season of rebirth.

Something to sacrifice

Going through Lent within the community of a church parish might have been helpful, after all, building common resolve in the company of others. There’s strength in numbers, and there is no reason why the same couldn’t be achieved with family members close friends.

There is wisdom in observing Lent, Christian or not, it seems to me. So I ask myself, “What will be my sacrifice?”

I’ve spent the past eight months changing my food and alcohol behaviours. I don’t eat or booze as much. I even eat less bread! What else can I sacrifice?

What could I live without for the next 40 days that will cause me to be more reflective of life?

There are still a few hours left in my day. I’ll let everyone know next time when I’m well into it!


Happy Monk Tidings - December 14, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Fruit Sourdough Pan Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Year in Bread ... and Gratitude! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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#theperfectloaf #perfectloaf #perfectloaf #maurizioleo #tassajarabreadbook #tassajarabread #tassajaracookbook

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Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Just rockin’ the Olive Sourdough at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. Into Mildrith’s fire they go!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #olives #olivebread #olivesourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab

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#apples #applebread #applelove #approachable #approachableloaf #breadlabcollective #breadlab
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Introducing this bread, Raven Ring Bread (a take on Hapanleipä, a Finnish bread) a recipe borrowed from @ravenbreads. The stand is made by my neighbour, Ken, a gifted woodworker. See you at the South Pender Growers and Makers Market, if it don’t rain too hard! ...

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It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly.

It was a dirty day, Wednesday. The sky hadn't been washed, the ocean was soiled, and the air was muggy and smelled oily. Then, moments before the rain started, the sun shone through and a glorious slash of colour opened up. And a rainbow! No unicorns, sadly. ...

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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
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Dog days. The beginning of summer mellowness. Baked in languor. But sometimes it's hard to let go. Shouldn't I be baking something? [See LinkTree in Profile ]
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#penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery
#happymonkbakingcompany #dogdays #dogdaysofsummer #southerngulfislands
#southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #southerngulfislandsbc
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Happy Monk Tidings - July 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Bird Seed Bread; Blog: Down to the Crossroads, Medicine Beach; Baking your own bread guides - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he?

This is James Morton, my father, who would have been 100 years old today if we hadn't lost him 36 years ago. I've surpassed him in living age and spent more years without him than with him, yet he still whispers in my ear and is a great listener when I talk to him. Taken at 14th Ave. and Burgess St., Burnaby, 'round about 1955. Handsome devil, ain't he? ...

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  1. Wikipedia — “The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, simple living, and self-denial. In Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in imitation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice during his journey into the desert for 40 days; this is known as one’s Lenten sacrifice.”

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