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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent - Ash Wednesday

Lent –  ne Fauste

    Today being Ash Wednesday, most of the Christian world is beginning their Lenten season.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent is an old Teutonic name for the period 40 days before Easter in preparation for Easter – a sort of time for spiritual reflection and personal purification.  The length of the fast is apparently based on the examples of Moses, Elias (Elijah) and Christ.
    While fasting is clearly scriptural, Lent itself appears to be more of a spiritual tradition than a New Testament precedent.
    According to experience and GAMEO, Lent is not a common holiday amongst the Anabaptists of any major branch, being celebrated mostly by acculturated Mennonite congregations in Anglo-American North America.
    Interestingly, GAMEO does indicate that many German-speaking Anabaptist communities do celebrate Buβ und Bettag or a day of repentance and prayer popular in Germany.  Buβ und Bettag, according to (German Wiki) is celebrated roughly eleven days before the first Sunday of Advent on the nearest Wednesday before November 23 (note the similar timing to the United States custom of Thanksgiving Day).  Interestingly, German Wiki also indicates that Buβ und Bettag is based on the scriptural story of Jonah – in Jonah 3: 4-10, we find Jonah convicting the citizens of Nineveh of their sins and immanent destruction by God’s judgment in 40 days unless they repent and are able to convince God to let off. 
    The Bible records that the citizens did repent with fasting and prayer – from the king and his nobles to the common people and the herds of the field.  God heard their repentant prayers and held off His judgment.
    As for the Russian Mennonites, Lent was always something that involved our non-Mennonite friends, relatives and neighbors but to which we never ourselves had a personal connection.  Herman Rempel includes neither a Plautdietsch word for fasting or Lent in his comprehensive dictionary.
    I am choosing to take part in the Ash Wednesday, the first official day of Lent and the day after Mardi Gras, as a means of fellowship with my Roman Catholic friends and faith group.  But, I have been at a loss as to how to answer the question regarding what I would be giving up for Lent.  Poverty tends to breed virtue as far as vice and self-control are concerned. 
    Amongst the less liturgically minded Protestant churches in the USA, a new tradition seems to be emerging to not celebrate Lent by giving something up but rather by acquiring a new habit – interestingly, the habit does not seem to have a particularly spiritual requirement.  But, this is perhaps the route I will take.  
    So for Lent, instead of fasting (Rev. Reimer seems to find the word fauste suitable), instead of giving up a luxury or a habit for Lent, I will instead re-establish an old one.  While I do often study the Bible and many have humorously noted the space my one or many Bibles tend to take up in my computer bag, I have fallen away from a childhood habit of daily devotions.  Yet, I often enjoy waking up in the morning and reading several of the morning papers – both on-line and in my usual Luddite way, from the front stoop.  For Lent I will endeavor to reinstitute a morning devotional dwelling not in the New York Times but in the Word and with the Our Daily Bread devotional published by Radio Bible Class – an ancient tradition that is shared at least as far back as my great grandparents on my father’s side and with my mother.  I will not take an oath to so perform, but will quietly affirm my intention to do just this.
    If you care to follow along, I have attached a link to the side of the blog.  (Interestingly, maybe some of you will want to follow along in Plautdietsche – at least for the Scripture reading?  )


Mataeus 6:16-18

Reimer 2001 (REIMER)
16 En wan jie fauste, got nich met en langet Jesecht romm soo aus dee Heichle, dan see festalle aeare Jesechte soo daut Mensche seene sele daut see fauste; enn Woarheit saj ekj junt, dee ha aul aea Loon.
    17 Oba wan du fauste deist, dan kjam die de Hoa en wausch dien Jesecht,
    18 soo dautet nich soo sit aus wan du fer Mensche fauste deist, oba to dien Foda dee em jeheeme seene kaun; en dien Foda dee em Jeheeme seen kaun, woat die beloone. 

Matthew 6:16-18

King James Version (KJV)

 16Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
 17But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
 18That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

© and Courtesy of


The Catholic Encyclopedia at

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