Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Ashes to Ashes
Today is Ash Wednesday... the start of the Lenten season. I've always loved Lent.. not because I love sea food, but because I love the symbolism. For people who observe Lent the correct way, it's a time of deep reflection and making sacrifices to remind ourselves of the ultimate sacrifice made for us on the cross.
Because of the bad weather here in Buffalo today, I couldn't make the drive out to my parish of St. Anthony's to attend Mass in the "older" form.. now referred to as the "Extraordinary form". I went to a local Church here in NT, Our Lady of Czestochtowa. It's a pretty Church, built in the first decade of the 20th century. Something about the "newer" liturgy just seems to leaving me wanting a little more... I miss the solemnity that comes with every pre-Vatican II Mass, and am not a fan of all the ad-libbing that creeps into the modern form of the Mass.
The custom of receiving ashes is quite old. It is a reminder of our own mortality. God created Adam out of the dust of the Earth, and eventually, our own bodies will become dust once again after we die. It is only our souls which are immortal. It's a sobering thought... especially in a society where the emphasis is "all about me". I was saddened to hear that the priest's response when imposing the ashes was different than it has traditionally been. In the "older" rite, the says (in Latin) "Remember man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return". At this Mass, the priest said "Turn away from sin and have faith in the Gospel". Still an important message, but not exactly in sinc with the meaning of the ashes.
I am often asked, or even ridiculed about, the custom of not eating meat on Fridays, or giving something up during Lent. We give up meat because meat was originally a luxury. Meat is now a staple in western diet.. and regardless of prices of either meat or fish, it is commonly more difficult to eat meals while consciously avoiding meat all together. Note to vegetarians... find some other staple in your diet to give up... maybe tofu? We abstain from meat on Fridays... quite simply.. because Christ died on Friday.
As for the giving up of something for Lent... usually people tend to give up their favorite snack foods... it's just simply another small sacrifice we make to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made of Himself on the cross. It's not mandatory, but it some what defeats the purpose of the Lenten season if we don't sacrifice our own comforts. Let's be happy we are not asked to fast and sacrifice how Christ did... 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. Yikes!!
It always makes me laugh how these small sacrifices seem to bother people. You'd think they were being asked to give up a limb or bleed themselves dry. Like one priest used to say, "there is no Easter Sunday without the carrying of the cross". So let's do what we can... and like to old nuns used to say "offer it up!" :)