We mark time in various ways: as an educational institution, BGST marks time in semesters and with breaks as our down times. Parents with school going children will mark time according to the school terms and activities. We celebrate festive occasions and significant birthdays and anniversaries, like turning 50 or a 30th wedding anniversary.
The Christian Year
The Christian tradition marks time around the life of Christ. The year starts with Advent, which is the 4 weeks before Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. After Christmas is Epiphany, which is 6 January and is the day when the Magi came to visit. The word “Epiphany” is from the Greek “epiphanos” which means revealing, for that is when Jesus is revealed to the wise men. Lent is the 40 days before Easter Sunday, and begins with the Transfiguration of Jesus. The 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays which are always observed as mini-Easters) lead up to Palm Sunday, Holy week, Good Friday and finally Easter Sunday, which marks Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.
The season of Easter lasts for 50 days until Pentecost, which is the beginning of the church whose head is Christ. The season Pentecost, is called “Ordinary Time” or “Kingdomtide” which is a season for growth, until Advent comes around again. Connected with the Christian year is the Lectionary (see, for example, https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/), readings in the Bible which follow this pattern. I have been using the Lectionary for my personal bible reading for some years now, and I find that I am slowly being shaped by the biblical story. I begin to see the story as whole, not just Jesus’ life but also how the story of the Old Testament fits into God’s grand narrative.
To prepare for something can seem to be a drudgery: before the Lunar New Year, those of us who celebrate will throw out the past year’s clutter, clean windows, and clear out cupboards. Lent, as a season of preparation before Easter can also seem like a drudgery or an obligation, but should not be so.
I find that taking on a discipline at Lent has helped me to appreciate in more profound ways Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. Over the years of observing Lent, for instance, as I fasted from food, I became more aware that I was depending on the easy availability of food to sustain myself, rather than to discipline my own eating habits. I have also experienced inexplicable joy at Easter Sunday sunrise service when I was convicted, “Yes, He is alive, and I know that he is King!” I doubt I would have come to got these lessons with such depth if I hadn’t been especially attuned to the season.
May I encourage you to observe this season of Lent, so that we may all have growth in Christian maturity.
DR KWA KIEM KIOK
Kiem-Kiok is BGST Lecturer in Missiology and Interdisciplinary Studies. She brings her legal and theological training, as well as work experience in marketplace, church and para-church organisations into this role. Previously she was lecturer and registrar at East Asia School of Theology where she taught a variety of courses in intercultural studies. She has published on a diverse range of subjects including a contextual commentary on Matthew (ATA, 2017), contributed to the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Zondervan, 2011) as well as on religious harmony in Faith in an Age of Terror (BGST, 2018).
Some Popular Practices
Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday (1st day of Lent), observed in many Christian countries through participating in confession and absolution, the ritual burning of the previous year’s Holy Week palms, finalizing one’s Lenten sacrifice, as well as eating pancakes and other sweets.
It is observed by many Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Roman Catholics, who “make a special point of self-examination, of considering what wrongs they need to repent, and what amendments of life or areas of spiritual growth they especially need to ask God’s help in dealing with.” “Shrove Tuesday” comes from the word shrive, meaning “absolve”.
As this is the last day before the penitential season of Lent, related popular practices, such as indulging in food that one might give up as their Lenten sacrifice for the upcoming 40 days, are associated with Shrove Tuesday.
A pancake race in Olney, Buckinghamshire, 2009
By Lestalorm; Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Source: Wikipedia Commons
The term Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
Many Christian congregations thus observe the day through the holding of pancake breakfasts, as well as the ringing of church bells to remind people to repent of their sins before the start of Lent.
On Shrove Tuesday, churches also burn the palms distributed during the previous year’s Palm Sunday liturgies to make the ashes used during the services held on the very next day, Ash Wednesday.
In some Christian countries, especially those where the day is called Mardi Gras or a translation thereof, it is a carnival day, the last day of “fat eating” or “gorging” before the fasting period of Lent.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder,
The Fight between Carnival and Lent, 1559