Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that begins the most holy of seasons in the Catholic calendar, Lent. For those of you unfamiliar with the ritual, the ashes are smeared across the foreheads of the penitents. Supposedly in the shape of a cross, although each priest has varying degrees of success, proportional to the amount of people he has waiting in line. When the ashes are smeared on your forehead, the phrase, "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust" is used to symbolize our fleeting life on this planet, a reminder that Jesus died for our sins, and our quest to live as sin-free a life as possible during our short stay on earth.
Even though I will not be participating this year in the rituals of the Catholic Church, they remain ingrained in my psyche. Although as a child enrolled in Catholic school, I am afraid that my love of Mass translated more into looking forward to getting at least 2 hours relief from schoolwork since we often celebrated Mass during the school day. The psychic imprint is not necessarily a bad thing, the rich symbolism and almost mystical rituals are something that make you feel part of something larger, something bigger than your normal everyday trudge through life. This is something the Church has been criticized for, not being "accessible" to the congregants. I guess that is something that each person must decide if it is an issue mportant to them. I didn't mind the grand scale of Catholic Mass, it made religion seem special and important.
The season of Lent requires you to give up something that is dear to you, as a small reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, as well as abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. I am not sure, but I think the Church may have reversed the meat thing, since we as a society are not so meat-beholden as we used to be. In the 50's, I am sure that giving up meat was a much bigger deal than it would be now. I remember promising to give up candy, chips, or similar things that seem like a big deal when you are a kid.
Even though tonight I will be watching the latest episode of "Lost," (perhaps there is a deep symbolism in that title that I am not recognizing) a small part of me will be remembering the life I used to be a part of. I have found many reasons not to seek religion again in my life- I am too busy, Mr. Personality is too young to understand, my free time is precious. I think these days that the giving of your time to participate in church and church-related activities is seen as a big sacrifice by a lot of people. What does that say about us as a society? I am not sure. If only there were easy answers to these sorts of questions.