This upcoming week has two of my favourite days in the Church’s calendar – Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. 

Shrove Tuesday is perhaps an obvious candidate – who doesn’t like pancakes for dinner?! 

However, Ash Wednesday might seem like a stranger choice. It definitely has a different tone than the (pancake) day before. It is a penitent day. It is one of the days of the year that I, and many others, usually fast as a spiritual discipline. It is a day when we mark our heads with ashes and remember our mortality – that we are dust and to dust we shall return. It is a day especially for facing and naming the sin that is in the world, the sin that is in us.  

So, why is this strange, ancient observance one of my favourites? 

Because I need days like these, the fasts alongside the feasts, to give life meaning. If we tried to be up and happy all the time, things would get pretty boring pretty quickly.  

Because Ash Wednesday is beautiful in its grittiness; it provides a poignancy that deepens my joy, my love, my peace, my faith.  

Because Ash Wednesday is freeing. What a relief to know and name that we are not God. 

Because in our death-denying and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture, it is refreshing to remember that we are finite, imperfect and fallible. It is refreshing to name the brokenness that we see in ourselves and know that God loves and forgives us all the same, with a love that is eternal and boundless. 

I urge you to enter into and embrace these two very different days this year, and the tension they create, side by side. 

Feast and fast. 

Pancakes and ashes. 

Through them may we see reflected the fullness of the human experience. May we know and embody our fundamental belovedness by God our Maker.  

Thanks be to God!