March 24:  One of the hardest things to teach the squirrels (and just about everybody) is the tenacity of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.  God has made a covenant with his people and has promised never to give up on us. All of the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments together, are a record of how God never, never, never, never, never gives up.

- Adam and Eve disobeyed the very First Rule. But God never gave up.
- Abraham wandered, and Sarah laughed. But God never gave up.
- Moses hid and shook with fear. But God never
gave up.
- Saul went insane. But God never gave up.
- David plotted against Uriah. But God never gave up.
- Ahaz sold out to Assyria. But God never gave up.
- Israel fell into pieces. But God never gave up.
- The Jewish people became exiles. But God never gave up.
- John the Baptist was beheaded. But God never gave up.
- Peter denied he even knew Jesus, and Judas betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. But God never gave up.
- The disciples all ran away. But God never gave up.

So I’m wondering if there’s anything new in our world today that would cause our loving God to give up on us now?  Let’s pray not!!!!! 

March 17:  With these warmer days approaching, the squirrels are becoming more active and present in my Dad’s back yard!  Also their curiosity and theological questions are blooming as well.  Recently I was asked why Ash Wednesday was so late this year and, consequently, Easter as well.  I had to explain that it was dependent upon the Lunar Calendar! 
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ's death and resurrection occurred around the time of the Jewish Passover, which was celebrated on the first Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox. This soon led to Christians celebrating Easter on different dates.
In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the Vernal Equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the Vernal Equinox.
By ecclesiastical rules, which fixes the date of the equinox to March 21, the earliest possible date for Easter is March 22 and the latest possible is April 25. There are 35 dates on which Easter can take place. There won't be another early Easter until 2035 (March 25, 2035).
The most recent time an Easter came in March was March 27, 2016. The century's latest Easter will occur in the year 2038 (April 25, 2038). After that, it will next fall on April 25 in the year 2190. Easter can never come as early as March 21 because, by ecclesiastical rules, the Vernal Equinox is fixed on March 2.

March 10:  Using my Sheltie knowledge (and my Dad’s computer!) let me tell you about Lent!

The word “Lent” comes from the old English, “lencten,” which means “spring.”  In Old German are found the related words lenzin and lenzo, which probably comes from the same root as “long” and referring to the lengthening days, as the earth moves from the Winter Solstice toward the Spring Equinox.  

In the Christian Church, Lent refers to the period of abstinence preparatory to the Feast of Easter.  As this fast falls in the early part of the year, it became confused with the season, and gradually the word Lent, which originally meant Spring, was confined to this liturgical use.  The Latin name for the fast is Quadragesima, derived from the Sunday which was the 40 day before Easter! 

Nevertheless, spiritual writers have pointed out how this identification is spiritually beneficial. Lent is generally seen as a time of spiritual renewal, a type of “Spiritual Spring,” when a soul is renewed in fervor and cleansed of all impurities. Saint John Paul II summarized it well during a General Audience in his pontificate.

“Here then is revealed the meaning and necessity of the Lenten season which, by its call to conversion, leads us through prayer, penance and acts of fraternal solidarity to renew or reinvigorate our friendship with Jesus in faith, to free ourselves from the deceptive promises of earthly happiness and once again to savor the harmony of the interior life in authentic love for Christ.”

March 3:  The squirrels can spot them anywhere, Catholics on Ash Wednesday!  It is the one time when Catholics literally wear their faith on their foreheads.  In fact, Masses on Ash Wednesday are better attended than Masses on most holy days, except Christmas, of course!  What is this day all about?  Well…..

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics.  The ashes we receive on our foreheads in the shape of a cross serve as an outward sign of our sinfulness and need for penance.  The ashes also symbolize our mortality, a reminder that one day we will die and our bodies will return to dust.  Hence the traditional words, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return!” 

The tradition of receiving ashes has its origins in the Old Testament where sinners performed acts of public penance.  It was Pope Urban II who, in the 11th century, recommended that all Catholics take part in the practice of receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday. 
In the 12th century it became customary that the ashes used on Ash Wednesday were made by burning the previous year’s palm branches. 

Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics.  According to Church law Catholics older than the age of 14 are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays.  In addition, those between the ages of 18 and 59, not including pregnant or nursing mothers, should eat only one full meal per day.  Smaller amounts of food, not as much as a full meal, may be eaten in the morning and either at lunchtime or dinner, depending on when you eat your full meal. 

And yes, nuts are acceptable to eat on a day of fast.


For more of Maggie's musings, see our online bulletin archives.  Maggie's column appears on page 3