By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

The season of Lent is the forty days of fasting, focus and fervent prayers before Easter Sunday. 

It is six weeks of prayer and fasting on many Christian church calendars that are somewhat solemn and call for self- denial. Some give up sweets, some stop smoking, and some drink no alcohol during Lent for example. But church leaders have been known to refocus the faithful from giving up things to taking on things: tutoring a child, serving at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a poor neighborhood’s litter or visiting seniors at a nursing home. 

Those days of preparation for commemorating the resurrection of Jesus are what Lent is all about. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the (Holy) Saturday before Easter.

Why is the day before serious fasting during Lent begins called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday)?  So many serious things to be known by and it also has been named Pancake Day in the African-American faith community.  Pancakes are consumed for dinner on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  McDonald’s had been known to sell flapjacks during evening time that one Tuesday of the year before they started selling breakfast routinely all day.  The background of the consumption of pancakes many believe was to consume the eggs and dairy products in the household symbolically in anticipation of the 40 day fasting season.

On Ash Wednesday, (March 2), Lent begins the observance when ashes are placed in cross formation on the forehead of each of the faithful who wish to receive them.  Many who do not practice Christian tradition are struck by the sight of folks walking around with a black smudge on their foreheads. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” are the words of the priest as he prayerfully applies the ashes.  The ashes used are from palm leaves burned from the previous Palm Sunday and then blessed.

The dates of Lent change each year because they depend on when Easter Sunday falls on the calendar.  Easter is a moveable feast which will be observed on Sunday, April 17th this year. Easter is preceded by one week by Palm Sunday which commemorates the triumphant return of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem. It is the official beginning of Holy Week which include such high Christian observances as Holy Thursday, which remembers the Last Supper and Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified and died.

So, what is Lent?  It is a period of sober reflection; it is the most solemn time of the year for Christians. It is a time to think about who one is and how one fits in this world.  

In Baltimore, we should meditate during Lent on the endless violence in our city and call on the intercession of our ancestors and saints to pray to God to end it. Baltimore City could use the adoption by patron saints for help with the overwhelming, untimely, senseless deaths in the city that we love. Heaven only knows how to end it.

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