Ashes On My Head Can Only Mean One Thing
As I sat in the hospital’s worship service today, I was still worrying about what I was going to give up for Lent.
Yes, today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I rarely talk about religion here because I don’t want to offend or discourage anyone from thinking I’m not open to your thoughts and opinions no matter your beliefs. (Note: I’m very open to whatever you have to say about anything, not just religion.) But since today is such an important day, I thought it was appropriate to talk a little about Ash Wednesday, Lent, and what it all means to me.
If you clicked on either of the above links, you’ve probably realized that they refer you to information about Catholicism. I was raised Catholic and it’s the denomination I continue to practice today. I have never and will never be a very devout Catholic, nor do I adhere to many of the Church’s more conservative teachings and practices. But I believe in the Catholic interpretation of the Bible and I prefer the Catholic service (I do like me some tradition.). And I’ve always participated in Lent.
Which is why I found myself sitting in the chapel at the hospital. I couldn’t leave work today to go to mass, but I needed to go to a service and listen. I needed to pray in preparation for the season and get my ashes on my forehead. And I needed to get my mind off of how incredibly hungry I was (I did the Catholic thing and fasted this morning).
Lent is about sacrifice, both your own personal sacrifice and remembering the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us when he died on the cross. Your Lenten sacrifice should call to mind Christ’s sacrifice.
I’ve given up a variety of things over the years for Lent. Fast food, chocolate, soft drinks, butter, caffeine, and swearing are some that I can think of off the top of my head. Some I failed miserably before the first week was over (I don’t even think I made it through the first 24 hours without caffeine), but some really changed me. I used to put butter on everything from ordinary things like bread and potatoes to PopTarts and every vegetable imaginable. Now I rarely butter anything but my bread, preferring to enjoy the taste of the food as opposed to the taste of the butter.
But this year I couldn’t think of anything.
I mean, I thought of a lot of things, like Diet Coke, coffee, sweets, and pasta, but none of those were things that I really felt like I could actually give up. Even reminding myself that my sacrifice is nowhere near as difficult as Christ’s was would help. Especially with the Diet Coke. I couldn’t have made it a week.
But then it hit me, right there while the AME chaplain was singing the hymn (It’s a Baptist hospital in an urban neighborhood – no one is Catholic around here). Catholics always abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. (It should be noted that “meat” does not mean fish or shellfish. Meat refers to red meats, poultry, and pork.) And I’ve been thinking about going vegetarian for budget reasons, but have resisted because I really do love meat.
So I’m giving up meat (as in the Catholic definition of meat) for Lent. It’s a sacrifice because I eat out a good bit with friends and it’s always hard to find vegetarian options on the menu and it’s a sacrifice because I’m tempted to eat meat and cook with meat all the time. But it’s also something that’s going to be good for my body and for my wallet. I’m pretty excited about it.
Do you participate in Lent? If so, what are you sacrificing?