Lent: desert and/or dessert?

Blog Published: February 21, 2012
By Sister Julie

As we dive deeper into Lent, please enjoy this classic seasonal blog from the archives!


Mardi Gras is here and that means it is Catholic party time! Enjoy the day, but don’t forget the best part of the part — the desert! Or is it the dessert?! I was reflecting on today’s Take Five for Faith and I inadvertently switched the “desert” in here to “dessert”.

Preparation is crucial for a meaningful celebration. Advent prepares us for Christmas, Lent prepares us for Easter, and Mardi Gras prepares us for Lent. These alternating seasons of quiet and celebration help us notice and appreciate the fact that God is found not only in austerity and prayer but also in music and celebration. As a result, we experience the sustaining presence of God in every aspect of our lives. A good Mardi Gras will help us have a good Lent. A good Lent, in turn, ensures a spiritually rich Easter, which is the ultimate goal. So go ahead and celebrate Mardi Gras today! Decorate your home, gather with friends, enjoy some good food. Tomorrow you enter the desert.

That’s right, I thought it said that tomorrow I enter the dessert. That to me sounded a lot better than entering the desert (or the dragon for that matter).

Desert and dessert seem to have such opposite meanings and so whether you are entering one or the other can make a HUGE difference! The desert is often used, though not terribly correctly, as a symbol of lifelessness, vastness, and oppressive conditions . It can seem hostile and unwelcoming. Desserts, on the other hand, are sweet, lush, and luxurious. We turn to them for comfort and for celebration.

And so now I am left with this curious image of Lent — how is it both desert and dessert? If that isn’t enough to blow one’s mind check this out — the word “dessert” is actually Middle French, from desservir to clear the table, from des-de- + servir to serve, from Latin servire (Merriam-Webster). So dessert might actually be an apt image for us during Lent — to take time to clear the table and to prepare to serve.

Tell us your thoughts on desert and dessert as you prepare for Lent!

Archived Comments

Sister Michele Fisher February 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

what a FANTASTIC image for Lent! The desert’s desserts!!! I really have to take this one to prayer!!! Thank you! Grazie! Gracias! Merci! Danke! Dziekuje!

Candace Turner February 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

Seems we are spiritual “cousins”…I being the wife of an Episcopal priest. Our first study in our Lenten series is to watch the movie “Chocolat” followed by a Chocolate Feast and discussion of what your “desert’s/desserts” image means. Thanks for the wonderful insight; I’ll be using it on 2/29.

Actually as we finished doing Morning Prayer this Ash Wednesday, I was very aware of a keen sense of holy joy and found myself wondering if that was “appropriate” for such a “heavy” day. Your comments seem to affirm that there is dessert in the desert! Looking forward to continued contact with you Sr. Julie. Love your enthusiasm; it’s contagious. God IS COOL! PS Am using your “The Awesome and Holy Season of Lent” observations as a springboard for our newsletter & maybe our website. Hope you don’t mind (am giving you the credit)

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