and to dust thou shalt return…

Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “Shrovetide,” the week preceding the beginning of Lent. The word itself, Shrovetide, is derived from the Latin words carnem levare, meaning “to take away the flesh” and was the time to cast off things of the flesh and to prepare spiritually for Lent.

From “Parish Life in Medieval England”

The English term provides the best meaning for this period. “To shrive” meant to hear confessions. In the Anglo-Saxon “Ecclesiastical Institutes,” recorded by Theodulphus and translated by Abbot Aelfric about AD 1000, Shrovetide was described as follows: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him as he then may hear by his deeds what he is to do in the way of penance.”

Lent then would become a time for penance and renewal of faith and reordering out lives with God as the focus. The ancient word for this discipline was ascesis so let us use this time for spiritual ascesis or exercise, shedding some unnecessary mental fat, toning the muscles of attention and patience.

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