SHROVE Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It might be better known as Pancake Day.

This comes from the ancient custom of using up all the fat in the house before the Lenten fast began.

It was the last feast before the fast. This originated in the monasteries when monks would prepare for six weeks of fasting before the great festival of Easter.

The word shrove comes from the word shriven. This meant confession and absolution when one would go to the priest to confess wrong doings and to receive absolution from him. In other words, it was a time to look inwards and re-assess oneself.

We are reminded of the words in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 16 verses 23 and 25. “If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, he must leave self behind; take up his cross and follow me. Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake, he will find his true self.”

These are tough words but also challenging.

As a symbol of this, Christians go to church on Ash Wednesday for Holy Communion and have ashes imprinted on their foreheads by the priest to remind them of their frailty and of their brief time on this earth.

It is a profound time of reflection on the important things of life. Advent and Lent are traditionally times of preparation for the great festivals of Christmas and Easter. We are so grateful to the churches that are open during this time of lockdown and also to the stores and shops that still remind us of these important times and seasons.

Lent is a journey and like all journeys it needs preparation. For Jesus, that preparation was The Temptations, when he went out into the wilderness to prepare for his life’s work. When I was in Jerusalem, we were taken to the outskirts of the city to look down on the desert that began abruptly before us and stretched out beyond the horizon.

Many journeys involve stopping and starting as we do during walks. It is good to stop and look at interesting features as we go along.

These may be flowers or we may just stop for a chat or listen to the cry of a rare bird. Most of us are busy people and it is good that we pause from time to time during this season of Lent.

There are numerous helps to study during this time and I would like to share a few thoughts with you in the next few weeks. The main point is to start our journey from where we are.

We do not know how the journey will end but it will be exciting and, if we have to journey alone, remember that we are never alone.


Forty days and forty nights

thou wast fasting in the wild;

forty days and forty nights

tempted, and yet undefiled:

Keep, O keep us, Saviour dear,

Ever constant by thy side;

That with thee we may appear

At the eternal Eastertide.

(G. H. Smyttan 1822-70)

Deugain nydd a deugain nos

Yn yr anial temtiwyd di;

Deugain nydd a deugain nos

Yr ymprydiaist drosom ni.

Dysgwn ninnau, er dy fwyn,

Rywfaint o’th ddisgybliad trist;

Cawn, trwy ympryd, nerth i ddwyn

Cofid gel gofidiau Crist

(G.H. Smyttan. Cyf. J.A. Jackson)



Arglwydd a Meistr, roeddit mor amyneddgar:

Gyda phobl oedd yn araf i’th ddeall;

Gyda’r disgyblion pan oeddent yn ffraeo am bethau

digon dibwys;

Gyda’r rheini oedd yn cynllwynio yn dy erbyn;

Gyda’r Phedr a’th wadodd, a Jwdas a’th fradychodd,

Arglwydd a Meistr, roeddit mor amyneddgar, yn gofalu mwy

am anghenion eraill na’r eiddot ti. Cynorthwya ni i ddysgu

dy fforth di. Amen.

Lord God, with Lent, we approach the springtime of the year when the face of the earth is renewed and life emerges out of death.

We pray that the season of Lent may be a veritable springtime for our souls, so that our lives, quickened by the breath of the Spirit and warmed by the sunshine of your love, may bear abundant fruit and may be made radiant with the beauty of holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Contemporary Prayers by Frank Colquhoun)

Rev John Powell

Retired vicar of Cardigan