Today, it’s Time to Party!!!

Posted: March 1, 2022 in World On The Edge

New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade

It’s Tuesday, Mardi Gras day, and time to party!!!
But why do we party? What’s Mardi Gras all about?

Americancatholic.org says that Mardi Gras has grown in popularity in recent years as a raucous, sometimes hedonistic event. But its roots lie in the Christian calendar, as the “last hurrah” before the Catholic season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. That’s why the enormous party in New Orleans, for example, ends abruptly at midnight on Tuesday, with battalions of street sweepers pushing the crowds out of the French Quarter towards home.

Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” in French. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from “to shrive,” or hear confessions).

But do you know that Mardi Gras is related to the Christmas season, through the ordinary-time interlude known in many Catholic cultures as Carnival? (Ordinary time, in the Christian calendar, refers to the normal “ordering” of time outside of the Advent/Christmas or Lent/Easter seasons.)

Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning “farewell to the flesh.” Like many Catholic holidays and seasonal celebrations, it likely has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. Some believe the festival represented the few days added to the lunar calendar to make it coincide with the solar calendar; since these days were outside the calendar, rules and customs were not obeyed. Others see it as a late-winter celebration designed to welcome the coming spring. As early as the middle of the second century, the Romans observed a Fast of 40 Days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, costumes and merrymaking.

The Carnival season kicks off with the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Three Kings’ Day and, in the Eastern churches, Theophany. Epiphany, which falls on January 6, 12 days after Christmas, celebrates the visit of the Wise Men bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. In cultures that celebrate Carnival, Epiphany kicks off a series of parties leading up to Mardi Gras.

Epiphany is also the traditional time to serve King’s Cake, a custom that began in France in the 12th century. Legend has it that the cakes were made in a circle to represent the circular routes that the Wise Men took to find Jesus, in order to confuse King Herod and foil his plans of killing the Christ Child. In the early days, a coin or bean was hidden inside the cake, and whoever found the item was said to have good luck in the coming year. In New Orleans Louisiana, and in Mobile, Alabama, bakers now put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake; the recipient is then expected to host the next King Cake party.

The official colors of Mardi Gras, with their roots in Catholicism, are: purple, a symbol of justice; green, representing faith; and gold, to signify power.

Tomorrow, it’s Time to Turn Down the Noise.

For Catholics, Ash Wednesday (the day after Mardi Gras) is the beginning of Lent, which lasts for forty days. For every Catholic, it is a day to confront the inevitability of his or her death, and for that day, we wear the sign of that inevitability on our foreheads in ashes.

The ashes we receive on our forehead in the shape of a cross serve as an outward sign of our sinfulness and need for penance. The ashes also symbolize our mortality, a reminder that one day we will die and our bodies will return to dust. Traditional words when we receive the ashes are: Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.

So, Ash Wednesday is a time of self-examination, and of our faith in the promise of eternal life. Can we turn down the noise in our lives for forty days and listen to what God wants to tell us? Because if we don’t listen, we won’t hear him call us by name–our name. We won’t hear that we should not be afraid. We won’t hear that God is madly in love with each one of us. We won’t hear what we can do to change ourselves.

Is there something in our lives that might prevent eternal life? If there is, we have an opportunity to change it. We know who we are. We know we’ve done. Shouldn’t we examine ourselves and work on the problems we may have?

Dear Lord, we are now in the holy season of Lent. We begin to realize anew that these are the days of salvation, these are the acceptable days. We know that we are all sinners. We know that in many things we have all offended Your infinite majesty. We know that sin destroys Your life in us as a drought withers the leaves and chokes the life from the land, leaving an arid, dusty desert.

Help us now, Lord, in our feeble attempts to make up for past sin. Bless our efforts with the rich blessing of Your grace. Make us realize ever more our need of penance and of mortification. Help us to see, in our ordinary difficulties and duties, in the trials and temptations of every day, the best opportunity of making up for past infidelities. Every day we are so often reminded in field and wood, in sky and stream, of Your own boundless generosity to us.

Help us to realize that You are never outdone in generosity, and that the least thing we do for You will be rewarded, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over. Then we shall see, in our own souls, how the desert can blossom, and the dry and wasted land can bring forth the rich, useful fruit that was expected of it from the beginning. Amen.

–Catholic.org

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