This Lenten season, you may encounter many words that are new to you. I thought I’d share the origin and meanings of some of these words.
The word Mardi Gras itself is French for “Fat Tuesday.” Since the Lenten begins on Ash Wedneday, the Tuesday before is a time of raiding the larder and getting rid of rich foods. Fat Tuesday is a feast before the fast.
The word Lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon word lencten that means Spring, or, literally, the lengthening of days. Lent is the forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter during which we focus on fasting, repentance, and our need for a Savior. This forty days corresponds to Jesus’ forty day fast in the wilderness. The Latin word for Lent is quadragesima which means forty days. The Greek word is tessarakoste (fortieth).
The Thursday of Holy Week is called Maundy Thursday. It is the day we remember the Last Supper, Gethsemane, and the arrest of our Lord. On that night, Jesus said, “A new command I give you, that you love one another (John 13:34).” From the Latin phrase, mandatum novum, or “new command” we get the word Maundy.
Lent is a period of time when we tell God that we’re sorry for our sins. The last word I want to look at is sorry. The trite phrase “sorry about that” was made popular by the TV show Get Smart in the 1960s. But we must not forget that the word sorry comes from the same root word as sorrow (Old English sarig and sorg, respectively). This means to feel wretched, miserable, sore, and sick over sin. Do we feel that way about our sin? Or do we flippantly say with Steve Martin, “Well sooooooory!” and not really mean it? Instead, we need to pray the prayer of David, from Psalm 51:
1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.