This was written by a gal on the church staff I work with. With Ash Wednesday being tomorrow, I thought this piece was very fitting and with her permission, I share it with you, dear reader.

If you need an excuse to eat pancakes for dinner, Tuesday March 8th is Traditionally Pancake Tuesday in Ireland. So you can pretend you are Irish and celebrate by eating pancakes for dinner on Tuesday Night.

March is always a sentimental month for me. Of course with the celebration of St Patrick’s Day there are plenty of Irish references and lots of the color green to be found. All month I am brought back to memories of my childhood in Ireland.

Starting with Pancake Tuesday. Which is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday. For the faithful Catholic Irish they would be abstaining from their eggs and dairy, and other items that required sacrifice/fasting (candies and chocolate are common in modern times). So they needed to use up the eggs and milk and did so by making pancakes. These days pancakes may be more commonly found in Ireland but when I was a kid for many Irish families this was the one and only time of year they would eat them. They make thin crepe like pancakes and would sprinkle sugar and lemon juice and roll them into a crepe (maple syrup no where to be found unless someone who loved you happened to mail you some in a care package). 🙂 I loved Pancake Tuesday. It was always just a fun tradition, pancakes for dinner on a special night. What kid doesn’t want pancakes for dinner.

Ash Wednesday on the other hand was a difficult day. The Catholic Church next door held special services that morning the students would attend, communion was served and ashes were smeared on foreheads. My school was filled with kids sporting black smears on their forehead. Ashes being worn as a sign of penance and fasting in preparation for Easter. I did not take communion with them and I wore no ashes. On that day there was no hiding the fact that I was different. As a kid that can be tough. Everyone knew I was American and belonged to that group that was spoken about in Mass, the cult of the bible (kind of funny but yes that statement was made by the priest in mass one Sunday). But on Ash Wednesday all day long there was a visual reminder that I was different, separate, set apart from everyone. Some years I hated it and longed to smear some dirt on my forehead just to fit in and other years I embraced it as an opportunity to share my faith.

While I may not celebrate Ash Wednesday with ceremony, special services, ashes and rituals. I have come to appreciate the reminder it brings to me. That in my very nature I am sinful, without hope of earning my way to heaven. Yet, there is anticipation of the gift, the reminder that Easter brings. What Christ has done for me on the cross, the sacrifice that was made, the forgiveness of Sin. Forgiveness, Grace and no longer the need for penance, just repentance. The price for my sin has already been paid.

So this Tuesday at the Marker household we will be serving up some pancakes for dinner. American style with maple syrup. While I love the tradition I am not at all attached to sugar and lemon juice. And then on Wednesday I will remember that my sin has been paid for and that while there is need for repentance, there is no need for penance (defined as: voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrongdoing). Easter is coming!

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