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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Behold, now is a very acceptable time

Lent started on Wednesday. 
I had prepared this really great post on the history of ashes to mark the start of the Lenten season.
And an argument on whether or not the use of ashes to mark people's foreheads was contrary to the traditional Gospel reading read in Catholic churches all over the world on the first day of Lent.

The post started like this:  

Today at church we read the standard Gospel selection from Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21 in which Jesus warns His followers to give alms secretly, and not to call attention to oneself while praying or fasting. 
It's a message that made a lot of sense to me, growing up and now. Performing good works and praising God are things that should be done for their own good. Our relationship with God is personal, private, and certainly not a show we're performing for those around us.

Yet then as a child I noticed, after this Gospel reading, we would all get to our feet and have the cross marked on our foreheads in ash. A clear sign for the rest of the day that we are fasting, and that we had gone to church. 
So isn't that exactly what Jesus warns us against? 

Today I argue, no. Not at all.

 Then I went to to explain the use of ashes by the Catholic Church throughout her history, and how that's changed. And then I explained the contextual significance of Jesus' words. And then I brought the whole thing together with what the modern Church believes the emphasis in Lent should be about.

But. Here's the thing. If you want to know those things you can certainly look them up. You found this blog. You know what "Google" is. The point here is that I have a really great sounding argument for people who say "hey aren't those ashes on your head hypocritical??" but I no longer feel the need to post the argument preemptively in my blog, as though I am approaching Lent defensively.

Because that is exactly what I was doing, you know. Approaching Lent defensively. 

So, no more of that. From here on in I will be entering Lent honestly and thoughtfully. 

I will even explore the reasons I was feeling defensive about Lent.
I am absolutely open to questions, and if I get very interesting ones I may even blog about them, but I'm not going to field imaginary attacks to justify my own growing unease with this solemn Church season. 

I promise.

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