Since the seventh century, Ash Wednesday has been the beginning of the season of preparation for Easter which we call Lent, but the imposition of ashes (made from last year’s palms) didn’t become common until the tenth century. Start your observance of Lent on Ash Wednesday, if you can.
A woman with a poetic bent, named Elizabeth Anne Vanek made these Ash Wednesday connections:
You thumbed grit
Into my furrowed brow,
with the sign of mortality,
the dust of last year’s palms.
The cross you traced
seared, smudged skin,
and I recalled
Into my heart
by those who loved too little
or not at all.
For forty days beyond Ash Wednesday, early Christians fasted. They could only eat fish, fruit, vegetables and bread made only of flour and water. To add a measure of interest to their meals, early believers created a bread they called “bracellae” which they shaped in the form of arms crossed in prayer. This helped remind them that Lent was a time of prayer and penance. The bakers sprinkled the tops of this pastry with salt.
When monks introduced these breads to the Northern countries of Europe in subsequent centuries, the Germanic people coined the word “pretzel” from “bracellae” (which means little arms.)
Buy a bag of pretzels, and have one a day (like vitamins) as a sign of your willingness to take in and live out the practices of Lent.
When you have guests for dinner, let the first course be a pretzel each, with some conversation about why you are serving it.
If you are part of a committee, take pretzels with you to the committee meeting to enjoy and to be a conversation starter.
Think of other novel times to serve pretzels. After all, we are not called to give up humor and creativity for Lent.
Let us pray:
Make us new, gracious God, and hear our prayer,
for You are good and loving. Bless our work and prayer this Lent,
That our lives may show forth Your cross and Your glory.
Get ready for a season of grace,
~Joan Sobala, SSJ