Have you ever heard of Shrove Tuesday? It’s more likely that you’ve heard of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”). Shrove means “to have obtained absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance” and comes from a tradition of penitential preparation for Lent. Mardi Gras, on the other hand, comes from a tradition of celebratory preparation as a last chance to have high spirits before the somber season of Lent.
The two names seem to imply polar opposites: going to confession vs. having a party. But both names describe an appropriate disposition for Lenten preparation. After all, Lent is a time to turn toward God. This can be a somber task, because it involves leaving some of our attachments behind, but it is also a task of great joy, because it means turning toward new life with God.
So as we enter the season of Lent, let us remember to bring together both our sorrows and our joys in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Don’t let your sorrows cast shadow on your joys, and don’t let your joys erase the deep discoveries of your sorrows. Rejoice! Our God is a God of joys and sorrows.