Monday, February 27, 2017

The End of Shrovetide

In honor of the last two days of Shrovetide, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show today and tomorrow to talk about Confession and Pancakes with Annie Mitchell. Today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central during one of the two "local" Ohio/Kentucky hours and tomorrow during the national EWTN hour (TBD). Listen live here today and here tomorrow.

Lent starts Wednesday so there's just two more days for spiritual and practical preparation for the 40 days of fasting, praying, and almsgiving. Here is a good source for a description of this season:

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of what traditionally was called "Shrovetide," the weeks preceding the beginning of Lent. The word itself, Shrovetide, is the English equivalent for "Carnival," which is derived from the Latin words carnem levare, meaning "to take away the flesh." (Note that in Germany, this period is called "Fasching," and in parts of the United States, particularly Louisiana, "Mardi Gras.") While this was seen as the last chance for merriment, and, unfortunately in some places, has resulted in excessive pleasure, Shrovetide was the time to cast off things of the flesh and to prepare spiritually for Lent.

Actually, the English term provides the best meaning for this period. "To shrive" meant to hear confessions. In the Anglo-Saxon "Ecclesiastical Institutes," recorded by Theodulphus and translated by Abbot Aelfric about AD 1000, Shrovetide was described--as follows: "In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do in the way of penance." To highlight the point and motivate the people, special plays or masques were performed which portrayed the passion of our Lord or final judgment. Clearly, this Shrovetide preparation for Lent included the confessing of sin and the reception of absolution; as such, Lent then would become a time for penance and renewal of faith.

While this week of Shrovetide condoned the partaking of pleasures from which a person would abstain during Lent, Shrove Tuesday had a special significance in England. Pancakes were prepared and enjoyed, because in so doing a family depleted their eggs, milk, butter, and fat which were part of the Lenten fast. At this time, some areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish. For example, Pope St. Gregory (d. 604), writing to St. Augustine of Canterbury, issued the following rule: "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs." These were the fasting rules governing the Church in England; hence, the eating of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Here is a recipe for pancakes from the Tudor era: specifically, from The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin from 1588:

To make the pancakes:

Take new thicke Creame a pinte, four of five yolks of Egs, a good handful of flower, and two or three spoonfuls of ale, strain them altogether into a faire platter, and season it with a good handful of Sugar, a sooneful of Synamon and a little Ginger: then takea frying pan, and put in a little peece of Butter, as but as your thombe, and when it is molten browne, cast it out of your pan, and with a ladle put to the furthesr side of your pan some of your stuffe, and hole your pan aslope, so that you stuffe may run abroad all ouer all the pan, as thin as may be: then set it to the fyre, and let the fyre be verie soft, and when the one side is bakes, then turne the other, and bake them as dry as ye can without burning.

After one Tudor housewife starting making her pancakes, she heard the church bells ring and ran to church, carrying the frying pan with a pancake in it, still wearing her apron, and tying a scarf around her head--and that's how the tradition of Pancake Races began. Since 1950, ladies in Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas (USA) have competed in the International Pancake Day races!

Two more days to decide what you're going to "do" and what you're "not" going to do during Lent: turn off TV, stay off facebook, go to Stations of the Cross on Friday, etc. Two more days to make your Lenten reading selection: a day by day devotional or a classic. During the Septuagesima season, I started reading a book of meditations by St. Ephrem the Syrian:

A collection of hymns, compiled from the writings of St. Ephraim by Bishop Theophan the Recluse. This book, which long constituted one of the favorite sources of reading for monastics in prerevolutionary Russia, has become our best-seller. A beautiful book.

This collection of hymns, compiled from the writings of St. Ephraim by Bishop Theophan of Poltava, was long considered one of the favorite sources of reading for monastics in prerevolutionary Russia. Printed on Bible quality paper, especially case-bound.

I bought my copy at Eighth Day Books, but it seems to be temporarily (I hope) out of print!

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