Many Christians have been celebrating Mardi Gras, and on Wednesday we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This season of Mardi Gras is celebrated from the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, February 2nd, until “Fat Tuesday,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The history and meaning behind this celebration are beautiful in many ways. However, this article will focus on one concept, gras.
Gras, in French, can also be translated as “fleshy”. It is a celebration of abundance, of providence, of vibrancy in color and music, and of unity amongst diversity. Though, at its core, it is a celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus. According to John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (NABRE). The grace, truth, and glory of God is revealed in the celebration of Mardi Gras as people celebrate with joy and pageantry the presence of Christ in this world. However, the celebration is not devoid of the cross.
Remembering the origin of the Cajun people particularly and the Creole people in the broad term, the “fleshy” part of Mardi Gras still realized that sin is present in the world. The Cajun people were originally from Nova Scotia. In 1765 these French Canadian Catholics were expelled from their land and found refuge in the bayous of Louisiana. The Spanish settlement also welcomed all other immigrants who were expelled from their lands, including African, Danish, English, German, and Irish, no matter if they were slave or free. Galations 3:28 states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NABRE). This mixed immigrant group is known as the Creole people. United by their Catholic faith and open to all people, this group celebrates that the sin they experienced was overcome by the Cross of Christ and celebrated in the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
Mardi Gras ends with a big “thud.” At midnight, the streets are cleared, the bars close, the celebration ends, and the time of prayer, fasting and alms giving begins. On Ash Wednesday, we enter into the desert of Lent. We hear the Holy Scripture from Matthew 6:1-18. We realize that the season of Lent is the spiritual exercise of overcoming sin in our lives and in the world. It is more than what we do; rather, it is who we are or who we are becoming. It is a journey of hope, not because of who we meet in the desert but because of who conquered the desert.
When Jesus entered the desert, He was filled with the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 4:1-13). The Trinity of Persons entered in the desert to engage in battle. There God encountered Satan on his turf. (This is another article, but take time to examine the differences between the desert and the garden imagery in the Holy Scriptures.) God enters into the sinful, hot, dry and arid heart of the world and conquers Satan’s temptations. Romans 5:8 states, “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (NABRE).
This Lenten Season, remember the “fleshy” side of faith. As the snow melts and the cold warms, as winter moves to spring, allow your desert to be transformed into the garden. Allow God into your heart and the power of Christ to overcome sin in your life. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
-Rev. Brian Van Fossen, Pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Parish. Williamsport
Religious Editorials are provided by United Churches of Lycoming County - http://www.uclc.org/.